A Recap of 2020 Forages

By Joe Gier, Landmark Dairy Technical Consultant
608-628-2152 | joseph.gier@landmark.coop

In the dairy industry, 2020 will go down as a crazy year with the number of challenges the industry has faced due to the onset of COVID-19. However, it does look like there are going to be some bright spots in the dairy business as we approach year end. One of those highlights for most farms in Southern Wisconsin is the forage production from this summer and early fall.

As farms came out of spring 2020, the one thing that they could not afford was another extremely wet summer. Many farms were very low or even out of haylage. Luckily, we did not see much for winter kill this spring, which allowed a good first crop harvest to start accumulating a haylage supply. The second, third, and fourth crops for most farms were not bumper crops, but we did get cooperative weather, for the most part, and a decent haylage supply.

There are ways that you can conserve this year’s haylage supply. Plan with your nutritionist now to ensure that the haylage you harvested will be fed at a rate that will make it last until next summer. It may also be a good time to consider a fall fertilizer application on the hay fields to help boost quality and tonnage for next year. In addition, rather than feeding haylage to heifers, you can feed them crops like rye, wheatlage, triticale, and sudan grasses. Analyze your cropping situation and see if one of these crops will work for you to feed young stock, so you can save your good haylage for the lactating cows.

Now is also a good opportunity to look at whether or not a fall/winter seeding will help your dairy. As the harvest progresses, there will likely be time later this fall to get these seedings in. Some important factors to consider are when to harvest these crops next spring, and what day length seed selection to use on your corn once these crops are harvested.

This fall, most dairies have expressed satisfaction with the tonnage and feed quality of their corn silage. Some dairies went so far as to allocate nearly all of their corn acres to silage varieties, and have harvested large amounts of corn silage to rebuild their supply. These same dairies took opportunities throughout the past 12 months to layer in ground corn contracts so they could devote more acres to silage. Look at your forage analysis to see if your silage has high starch value and high digestibility, and the potential to deliver tonnage to the bunker. Remember that the higher you can get your forages in digestibility, the more forage you can feed your cows at a lower feed cost. Higher quality forages also tend to lead to better components, which will help on your milk check premiums.

By examining the results of the 2020 forage crop and preparing early for the 2021 cropping season, you should be positioned for a very profitable year in 2021.


Transition Cows: A Few Ideas to Help Reduce the Headaches

By Cari Slater, Dairy Technical Consultant, Landmark Services Cooperative
608-712-7617 | Cari.Slater@landmark.coop

Are your transition cows giving you grief? Are you seeing issues like retained placentas (anything over 12 hours fits into this category), ketosis, DAs, metritis, the occasional milk fever case, slow milk start-ups, lower peak milk, or reduced conception rates? Sometimes, we need to take a step back and review the basics. As a nutritionist, my goal is to help producers set these girls up for success and prevent transition problems—rather than trying to fix the problems once they’ve occurred.

When looking at a prefresh diet, I tend to focus on three principles (and I would say that they’re equally important):

  • Mineral Balance (DCAD) and Calcium
  • Energy Level
  • Metabolizable Protein

Mineral Balance: Prefresh dietary mineral balance has a huge impact on the success of your transition cows. While most farms no longer see frequent cases of clinical hypocalcemia (milk fever), there are still plenty of cows that are affected by subclinical hypocalcemia. The latter has been dubbed a “gateway disease” because it leads to many of the transition issues listed above. I typically recommend a negative DCAD, high-calcium diet to my customers as the first option when formulating a prefresh diet to reduce these subclinical cases.

Energy Level: The metabolizable energy of the entire dry period should be monitored and controlled. This is no different for the prefresh diet. The dry period is typically not the time for cows to either gain or lose condition.

Metabolizable Protein:  During the last few weeks of the dry period, the cow’s requirements for metabolizable protein increase greatly. This is driven by her need to grow a calf as well as to develop her udders for the upcoming lactation. Making sure that the diet meets these needs is critical for a productive lactation as well as a healthy calf.

It’s also critical to remember that no matter how well-balanced the diet, there are other factors that can derail your transition cows. These may include:

  • Lack of bunk space
  • Poor cow comfort
  • Moving cows to new pens within seven days of calving
  • Fat cows (they are almost always the first ones to cut back on intakes as they get closer to calving)
  • Inadequate post-fresh ration
  • Twins

Prefresh diets do not need to be complicated. If your dairy is set up to mix a custom prefresh diet, that is always the best approach. However, Landmark does offer solutions for smaller dairies when it comes to feeding your prefresh cows. For example, Landmark carries a negative DCAD prefresh pellet (LSC Prefresh, 26109) that was designed specifically with the small dairy in mind. Whether you have 100 prefresh cows or five, Landmark has options for you.

Please contact a member of the Landmark Animal Nutrition team to talk about how we can help.





Using Milk Starts to Evaluate Herd Performance

Written by Michelle Woodman, Dairy Technical Consultant, Landmark Services Cooperative

DairyComp 305 is an important management tool used by dairy producers to record, store, and analyze herd activities, events, and productivity. One useful application of DairyComp 305 is tracking 4 week milk starts as an indicator of performance in your herd.

Milk starts are an estimate of milk production that adjusts all animals to similar DIM (Days in Milk) for accurate comparisons. Milk starts can be evaluated at any time early in lactation with Week 4 and 8 being the most common time frames used by dairy consultants. Milk start values are an indication of how consistently and effectively animals are “transitioning” into early lactation and thus lactational profits.

Historically, dairymen and consultants have focused on peak milk or the adjusted metric for total lactation milk (ME305). Both of those metrics have a large amount of lag (delay) before being evaluated, potentially resulting in significant loss of income before a change can be made. Today we know that how cows start is how cows peak and finish their lactation. Milk starts allow consultants to more effectively identify and manage transition performance trends and strategically implement changes to improve profitability. Milk starts also give an early indication of how cows are transitioning and are the preferred metric to evaluate nutritional interventions since they have minimal lag and accurately predict performance and profitability for the rest of the lactation.

When applying milk starts, you can establish performance goals for each lactation group and can be ready to evaluate lactation performance. These goals should be a percentage amount above an established “cutoff” for each time frame evaluated, such as month fresh. Cutoff goals will differ among herds due to breeds, genetics, feedstuff, and housing—the first step is knowing where you are currently and establishing a plan to reduce variation and/or increase the cutoff level for your herd. Milk starts are an excellent metric to evaluate nutritional and management interventions to the pre- and post-fresh groups. Depending on the response lag for the change, new milk start trends, levels, and variation can be quickly monitored each month. By successfully managing the transition program, it sets the stage for improved performance throughout the subsequent lactation of the herd.

Contact your Landmark Technical Dairy Consultant for further assistance in monitoring milk starts for your herd.

Alfalfa – Mow It, Merge It, Harvest It

Here are helpful guidelines to keep in mind for making high quality haylage.

Ready to Mow?

  • First cutting of haylage timing is everything
  • 24 inches tall – Alfalfa/Grass
  • 29 inches tall – Straight Alfalfa
  • Yes, planting season is upon haylage harvest, but you can’t afford to wait on haylage
  • Haylage gains 1 NDF per day past maturity
    • Corn silage loses less quality and yield if planted after haylage—it can wait
  • Proven method of utilizing photosynthetic drying in wide swaths to maximize drying
  • Keep dirt out!
    • Less than 10% Ash
    • Mow at 3.5 inches if using a tedder to prevent mixing of dirt into forage

Ready to harvest?

  • Once merged the dry matter game is over—it will not dry more
  • Chopping
  • Keep chopper tuned
  • Make a clean cut
  • Treating
    • Using a high quality inoculant to enhance dry matter retention: This is beneficial to alfalfa haylage due to the high buffering capacity. Because of higher protein content, salts, and minerals, alfalfa benefits when more lactic acid is added, which helps drop the pH in initial phases.
    • Forage SOLUTIONS Haylage WS 500T Guaranteed Analysis: 136 billion CFU/g of product Apply 1 g/ton forage to provide 150,000 CFU/g haylage
    • Also available as a dry granular product: Forage Solutions Haylage DG 50T
  • Packing in layers 6 inches or fewer
    • Tons per hour x 800 = equivalent packing weight

Dry Matter is Key!

Steps to Help Manage COVID-19 on the Farm

Having a plan keeps operations running smoothly in case of any disruption. With farmers starting to prepare for spring planting, on-farm staff activity levels will begin to increase. Listed below are the NCGA (National Corn Growers Association) recommendations regarding COVID-19:

  • Identify and coordinate a drop-off location for supplier deliveries to the farm. If possible, set this up away from on-farm high traffic areas and housing.
  • Create specific instructions for drop-off deliveries.
    • Provide the location and all procedures needed at the drop-off point.
    • Create signage to easily identify drop-off points. Provide contact information of staff who can assist with questions leading up to delivery and upon arrival.
    • Practice physical distancing with delivery drivers. In these circumstances, it is best not to greet them with a handshake. Instead, keep a recommended distance of at least six feet.
    • Log all deliveries and on-farm entries. Use a visitor’s log for everyone entering the farm.
    • Monitor personal travel with a personal travel log.
  • Prepare the on-farm workforce, including your family members.
    • Provide guidance for hand washing and handling materials. Make sure that guidance is available and communicated to employees.
    • If you have off-farm employees or seasonal help inform them that all sick employees must stay at home.
    • If you have added sanitizing materials within your facilities or vehicles, tell employees where they can find them.
    • If your operation has a large number of employees, encourage them to avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing during non-work hours.
  • Sanitize contact surfaces.
    • Disinfect all door handles and knobs, floor mats, steering wheels, and other commonly contacted surfaces.
    • Sanitize common gathering places including facilities, lunch areas, and office spaces.

Planning enables you to provide a healthy workplace while maintaining high productivity and minimizing disruptions during spring planting season.

Choosing the right way to deliver your cattle supplement

When it comes to selecting the right supplement for your cattle, there are two preferred methods of mineral supplements designed to provide consistent intake: loose minerals and mineral tubs.

Feeding free choice loose mineral

Feeding minerals free choice in loose form is the most commonly used method. Loose mineral works great in most cases, but may be dispersed or damaged by wind and precipitation, and can cake if it gets wet. It’s usually cheaper per head per day, and many different forms are available. Make sure that you use the correct mineral depending on the time of year and what you’re using it for. Use a covered feeder to help reduce the amount of rain and snow that gets in the feeder, and clean your feeders often.

Mineral tub

Mineral tubs are weather resistant and often promote a more consistent intake of minerals. You can move tubs to different areas in the pasture with ease, thus enticing your cattle to graze under-utilized pasture ground. Certain tubs also contain protein, which is especially beneficial if you have lower quality forages or pasture.

Both loose mineral and mineral tubs have their place on certain farms. Every farm is different, and what works for the neighbor may not work for you. Consider the best placement of the tub or the loose mineral feeder. If possible, move the mineral or tub often as animals will often hang around areas where the mineral is offered. Be mindful to keep mineral and tubs at least 50 feet away from a water source—this will help reduce over-eating. And always offer clean drinking water.

Using the correct mineral and nutrition is vital to reproductive health and also cow/calf health. Pastures are often lacking in calcium, phosphorus, and salt, and at certain times of the year, they may be lacking other minerals, as well. Talk with your Landmark nutritionist and ask questions to help build the correct feeding program that best suits your cattle’s needs.

Excellent Pricing for Soyhull Pellets with April Forward Contracting

Landmark has excellent buying opportunities for April-forward contracting on soyhull pellets. Dairy and beef producers struggling with forage inventories after several poor years of harvest and quality issues should consider products like soyhull pellets, corn gluten pellets and cottonseed to extend forages by providing fiber to the diet.

For more information, please contact:

  • Bill Cody – Formulation and Risk Management Coordinator
  • Phone: 608-819-3305
  • Email:  feedcommodities@landmark.coop

Winter Calf Feeding And Management Tips


The thermoneutral zone of a newborn calf is between 55-78° Fahrenheit. When the temperature drops below 55, a newborn calf is going to begin to experience some degree of cold stress. The first step in winter feeding is to create a comfortable environment.

  • BEDDING  Between week 1 and week 6 of life, a calf spends 73-81% of her time lying down. Due to the fact that she is spending close to ¾ of her time lying down, it is crucial that we provide her clean dry bedding. Keep in mind that the rate of heat transfer in wet bedding may be 3 to 10 times that of dry bedding. Ensure bedding is dry where calves are lying and supply straw allowing calves to nest. Check to make sure there is enough bedding underneath the calf so she is not losing heat through the ground.
  • CALF JACKETS  Putting a jacket on a calf can help decrease heat loss by up to 15%. With the combination of dry straw bedding and calf jackets we can reduce heat loss by up to 30%.
  • HOUSING  Whether calves are housed in a barn or outside we need to be sure they are well ventilated yet draft-free. You may need to close vents in hutches or raise curtains on condos to reduce draft. Ventilation in calf barns may need to be adjusted from what was working in the summer months to diminish drafts in the winter. Protect calves from lying against concrete walls which can absorb her heat.
  • NEWBORNS  Get newborn calves dried off quickly to prevent immediate cold stress. The use of a warming box or heat lamp can help (as long as they are kept clean). Give calves good quality colostrum quickly. Monitor temperature of the colostrum to ensure it is being fed at nothing below body temperature.
    • Go into a pen where you see a calf has been lying down.
    • Kneel down on one knee for at least a full minute.
    • If your knee gets warmer it is ok, if your knee gets colder the calf is losing heat down into the ground. In this case more bedding should be added.
    • Feel if there is any draft where you are kneeling.
    • Check to see how dry the bedding is in that exact spot where she has been lying.


As the temperature drops our calves require more energy for maintenance. Unlike older calves who can just eat more grain, young pre-ruminant calves do not have that option. Calves under three weeks of age are particularly stressed because they do not have much energy stored (3-4% body fat) and are eating very little calf starter. For every 1 degree drop in temperature below 50 F, a calf requires one percent more energy. By the time the temperature reaches zero, a calf should receive 50 percent more energy (calories) just for maintenance.

So what are the options for cold weather feeding?

    • If you would like to stay with the same mix, you can feed larger volumes to increase the calf’s caloric intake.
    • Feed at least 3 quarts or 3 ½ quarts per feeding of milk or milk replacer at recommended solid levels.
    • This also allows calves to get more water, decreasing chances of winter dehydration.
    • If you have the ability, adding an extra feeding has proven to be very successful.
    • To save time, you can target younger calves (~three weeks and younger).
    • Make sure you time feeding accordingly and stick to a routine once you start.
    • You can increase the solid level to 15-18% solids.
    • Ensure you have free choice water available because calves may be thirsty due to the increased dry matter content.

When feeding calves in winter be very aware of the temperature at which you are feeding the milk. Milk or milk replacer should be fed at 100°F- 102°F. If it is any colder calves will have to use energy to bring milk back up to body temperature. Often calves fed last will get much colder milk than calves fed first; In this case you may have to adjust your mixing temperature a little higher.

Watch for winter dehydration. It is very important that you still feed free choice water to calves in the winter months. We all know that it is crucial for grain intakes, but it also helps prevent calves from getting dehydrated in the winter, especially if you increase solid content.

6# Plus Club

Are you a member of the 6# Plus Club? No, this isn’t made of people who gained 6 lbs. between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day—otherwise many of us would qualify! Rather, the # identifies an area of performance in the dairy world that I encourage all producers to think and talk about.

When you hear a rumor that someone is generating 95# milk, you may not be getting the whole picture until you add the butterfat and milk protein together. Are they 95# at 3.4% butterfat, or 95# at 4% butterfat?

The 6# Plus Club is calculated by adding your butterfat percentage plus milk protein percentage, then multiplying it by the pounds of milk. For example, a 4% butterfat plus 3.2% milk protein equals 7.2# times the herd milk average (let’s say 90#).

7.2 x 0.90 = 6.48#

This number is similar to a classification score on a registered cow. If she were a 92 point cow, many of us would have a pretty good idea what she looked like. The same holds true if your herd were performing at 6.48#. Those of us with this mindset can visualize a herd that’s doing a great job putting milk and components together in the tank.

I am continually surprised to meet producers who aren’t asking what it takes to get these types of results and if those results are worth obtaining. I’ll be bold and say that if you’re not at or above 6#, it’s going to be tough to stay in dairying for long.

In the past few months, the opportunity to optimize for milk protein has been appreciably greater than in recent years. By adjusting herd rations to stimulate higher solids output, producers can achieve up to a 5:1 return on certain input ingredients. When we’re all getting charged for hauling, we might as well try sending more solids every day for a greater return.

The return on investment for adding certain ingredients may vary, so it’s important that we stay aware of how our creameries are paying. For example, during most of the past year we couldn’t afford to chase milk protein because we weren’t getting paid enough for the added investment. That started to change late summer when milk protein value notably improved. Those who adjusted rations with the market enjoyed good basis returns.

Adisseo, an industry partner, has a handy app (milkpay.com) that allows you to calculate how changing milk, butterfat, or milk protein from one scenario to another will pay you back for your efforts.

If you’re not part of the 6# club, I believe you need to be. If you’re not sure if the ration you’re feeding is designed to best take advantage of the market, I encourage you to contact your Landmark nutritionist team for assistance. Your Landmark staff, along with our many industry partners, are committed to helping you profitably achieve 6# Plus.

Facing Forage and Grain Obstacles in 2020

As we close out the challenging harvest season of 2019, our producers will turn to their next set of obstacles: lack of feed inventory, high yeast counts and mycotoxins in forages, and lack of feed quality. The Landmark animal nutrition team can help with these hardships and educate producers about mitigation strategies.

Addressing the lack of feed inventory, the most common issue is hay shortage. We advise seeking out alternative sources of fiber in diets rather than buying hay, which can be expensive and difficult to find in the current market. Our formulation team has been searching for other sources of fiber to keep overall feed costs down and bring value to your operation.

Next, we face the problem of high yeast counts and mycotoxins in forages and grains. We offer testing to assess your situation, and your nutritionist can counteract any identified issues with specialized additives or binders.

Lastly, the Landmark team strives to educate producers on making the highest quality forage possible. You have the opportunity to work with Dr. Larry Roth, a forage specialist from Provimi, who lives by the saying, “Treat your forage like a bunch of dollar bills. It doesn’t matter how many dollar bills you put into the bunker, it’s how many you get out.” In cooperation with Larry, we offer fermentation analysis on forages and look for ways to assist you in harvesting the highest quality feed possible from your land. To achieve this goal, we have worked with Provimi to develop an industry-leading line of inoculants.

At Landmark, we offer these inoculants at the end of the year for a discounted price. Contact your local Landmark representative to benefit from the following discounts: Pre-Booking until 12/31/19, Booking until 2/28/2020, and in-season prices after 2/28/2020.  Be sure to take advantage of these specials to help your bottom line!

Season’s Greetings from the Landmark Nutrition Team