April 2022 Managing Through Challenging TIme

This is a difficult newsletter to write with so many factors affecting the farm in play.   It is even more difficult with your farm business on the line.  We have been through both low and high milk prices and high grain prices times before.   Farms survived then and will now but not without some change.  An old farmer is saying that “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”

If you are not there, one of the key steps is to maximize the milk produced by the least expensive feeds.   In short, you want more money for your efforts which is not the same as more milk.


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March 2022 Nitrogen on Winter Forage


Most farms growing winter triticale forage with the high yield management package, are getting yields above what they expected yet the protein is less than what they want.  With the high soy meal prices, the lack of forage protein hurts.  Reality has caught up with them.  As we pointed out last year in the March 2021 newsletter; a three-ton winter forage dry matter yield will remove 192 lbs. of Nitrogen at 20% crude protein.   Insufficient nitrogen (and sulfur) will not only limit the protein of the crop but also drain the soil of available nitrogen so when corn is planted after, it does poorly for the first couple of weeks.  A band aid answer is to put some popup nitrogen fertilizer in with the corn seed.  The better answer is to put enough on the winter triticale and any not used will be there to supply the corn.


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February 2022 Phosphorous Use


With the price/supply squeeze coming tighter during spring fertilizer purchases, farmers are looking for options that will still support high yields. The November newsletter touched on soil testing to see what is needed in your soil, not what you guess it needs.  It has been clear from looking at soil samples over the past 40 years, that fields with regular manure applications are testing high to very high in phosphorous.   This is especially true for fields that are daily spread or spread without immediate incorporation.  The nitrogen fractions volatilize and are lost while the phosphorous mostly remains.  Thus, more manure is applied to meet the nitrogen needs of the corn and so excess phosphorus, above and beyond the maximum needs of the crop, accumulates.   The high to very high soil test in phosphorous means that the odds of getting an economic return on starter phosphorous is nearly 0.

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December 2021 Maximize Manure Fertilizer

The November (click to open) newsletter addressed the first steps you need to take to deal with, and relieve some of the pressure from the high fertilizer prices.  This letter will key in on a change that livestock farms, especially those that produce a lot of manure, can make to reduce or completely offset the fertilizer while supporting high crop yields.


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September Sorghum Harvest 2021

Many farms are growing sorghum or sorghum species for the first time.  Its harvest timing is very different than corn silage if you want to get it right.  Sorghums can be a wetter, high sugar, low starch forage. In a properly balanced ration sorghum can produce the same milk at potentially less cost.  Chopping this with a short length of cut, and worse  – processing – will produce forage the consistency of applesauce or soup.  This is not beneficial to good fermentation, high milk components, or preserving nutrients (lost leachate is 100% digestible).  The good news is that there are steps you can take to maximize results and minimize potential problems.

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June 2021 Successful Sorghum Planting

As farms search for the holy grail of milk production: higher quality forage at lower cost, more are trying the latest research on the produc-tion of BMR and non-BMR forage sorghum or sor-ghum-Sudan. With some corn varieties topping $350 a bag ($140/acre), BMR sorghum at 10 lbs. seed/acre is only about $20/acre, a lower cost before the crop is even planted. Nitrogen is similar to a good corn crop, and with seed treated by a safener, the proper herbi-cide can control the weeds. Research trials in the northern region of the US have resulted in mean yields of 35% dry matter silage that exceeded both the mean and the max yield of a corn variety trial planted next to it. Sorghum is easy to grow if you follow top yield practices. As you move further south into Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky, the potential for the crop increases even more. Sorghum thrives in these areas that frequently turn hot, dry, or both. Corn silage stops growing at temperatures over 85 F. Sorghum continues to grow up to 105 F. Conversely, in cool or cold summers, all sorghums can standstill. Corn will then clearly out-yield the heat requiring sorghums species. The forecast is for a slight-ly warmer than normal summer.

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August 2021 Maximize Winter Forage Yield

This year we have had more reports of farms that harvested 4 to 5 tons of dry matter from flag leaf winter forage.  The weather helped maximize yield but the key steps that these farms had followed set the crop up for a potential high yield in the first place.   In normal years many farms are achieving more than 3 tons of dry matter before planting their summer crop.  In each case, the farms are carefully following the top management steps.


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Photosynthetic Drying May 2021

Winter forage has yielded more in one cutting than all 5 cutting of many alfalfa harvests.  It is both a benefit and a problem.  The heavy crop comes out the back of the mower and lands with a splat. It is a lot of material to get to 35% DM.

Winter forage harvested at the flag leaf stage has very highly digestible components.  The fiber digestibility is higher than many Brown Mid Rib forages.  I have measured sugar levels over 20% on a dry matter basis.  The nutritional quality when the mower pulls into the field and what reaches the mouth of the cow can be two very different forages.   For those who are still using the old traditional mowing directly to windrow and letting it sit for 2-3 days, what reaches the cow’s mouth is far, far, less quality than what you mowed.  Mowing directly to windrow is windrow composting – it is not preserving high-quality forage – it is not drying the forage as fast as it could.  It simply aerobically composts the most readily digestible components that could be used to produce milk as it slowly over-dries on the outside. It makes  a major difference in the amount of digestible energy reaching the mouth of the cow.

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