As many famers are already aware, forage inventories at this point in 2020 are much lower than the past few years in most cases, with some being as low as 50-60% of normal forage inventories. Because of that, forage inventory management ismaybe more important now than ever. This starts with identifying your farm’s current inventory along with the projected needs of the farm until new feeds are made next year. It can be difficult to get exact numbers, but an estimate can provide enough to start to plan what changes need to be made early instead of waiting until it is too late.
If you determine that your forage inventory is inadequate for current feeding rates, there are several actions that can be taken. The first option is to cut animal numbers. This is the easiest way to conserve forages but is also the most drastic. If this is not an option, another is to purchase forages off farm. This can eliminate the shortage but is usually not cost effective because it involves wet feeds (hauling water and handling volatile/fermentable feeds). It can also be difficult in years like this to locate available forages since most farms do not have excess that they are willing to part with.
The third option, and perhaps the most reasonable, is to cut back individual feeding rates of forages. This can be done by substituting byproducts that resemble forages in crude protein, fiber, and energy. Some examples of these are soybean hulls, wheat midds, corn distillers, corn gluten feed, and bakery/candy meal. These products add more costs in the short term, but are usually more cost effective and logistically achievable in the long term than buying wet forages. Again, determining if this is necessary sooner rather than later is extremely important, and consulting a nutritionist to determine substitution rates for various forages is helpful in allowing you to properly substitute these feeds based on protein, fiber, and energy without losing production/growth.
Austin McMonagle Dairy Nutrition/Feed Consultant
Austin has been with the Co-Op since 2017, after graduating with a degree in Animal Science from Penn State University. He grew up helping on his family farm in Williamsburg and still spends a lot of time there. He has always been passionate about the dairy industry and agriculture and enjoys giving back to the area in which he’s lived his whole life by consulting farmers about their animals’ nutrition needs. In his free time, Austin enjoys spending time with his wife, Victoria, and son, Ellis, as well as hunting and being involved in sports. Contact Austin for a nutrition consultation at 814-793-2721.