Ideas for Dairies Dealing with Weather Challenges

From David R Balbian, M.S., P.A.S. – Area Dairy Management Specialist – Cornell Cooperative Extension – Central New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops

This extremely wet Spring has caused delays in the harvest of haycrop in our region. Most people have not harvested any haycrop, yet the crop has continued to mature with most grass fields in our 1st cut monitoring program exceeding 55% NDF, some even exceeding 60% NDF! There is little milk to be made with this forage. Additional grain will only help a little. This feed will put a lid on your herd’s ability to be productive. So, what to do? Here are some ideas to consider. They do not fit for everyone, as every dairy has their own unique set of circumstances to deal with. I simply put them out there for you to take into consideration to help maintain some economic viability with your operation.

  1. Skip over your grass fields (and maybe mixed stands). Harvest your alfalfa and perhaps your mixed stands. Separate this poorer haycrop when storing and utilize it for dry cows and perhaps older growing heifers. Be sure to rebalance diets.
  2. Utilize the 1st Cut Monitoring Update information that Kevin Ganoe sent to you yesterday. Find the fields that most closely match your geographic location to see where you stand. This info will help you to make these decisions.
  3. If you have a market for later cut dry hay and you can make dry hay & you can sell it, that is an option to consider to get some value out of this feed.
  4. Some of this late cut grass could perhaps be utilized as bedding.
  5. If you have a good inventory of Corn Silage and you must feed some of this poorer haycrop to the lactating cows, consider moving to a heavier C.S. diet. This will reduce the negative effects of this poorer haycrop on milk production.
  6. If you traditionally grow some corn for grain, consider diverting more of it to silage to allow you to reduce the amount of poor haycrop you may have to feed. Then feed more corn silage.
  7. If you have to feed some of this poor haycrop you may want to consider adding some digestible fiber sources to the diet such as soy hulls, brewers grain, citrus pulp, etc. This will add some cost. To get the milk response benefit you’ll need to replace some forage (the poorer haycrop forage) with these ingredients.
  8. Be sure to feed your grassy fields (when harvested) with Nitrogen to increase yields on subsequent cuttings and to increase its protein content. If this rainy weather continues, grasses will respond well to the additional Nitrogen. Connect with Kevin Ganoe for some specific advise on this. Store this separate from poorer quality feed and allocate it to you lactating cows.
  9. Work with your nutritionist to develop a plan that is specific for your operation  based on your situation and circumstances.
  10. Definitely harvest the high quality haycrop that you may have still out in the field FIRST, then plant your corn.

I am sure there are some other ideas that people may have to minimize the negative effects this late harvested haycrop can have on your milking herd. I simply put these out there for you to consider. I know they do not work for everyone, but perhaps a few or even one idea could be greatly beneficial. Remember, productivity is a primary factor linked to economic viability on the vast majority of dairy farms.

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