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

KEEPING HER WARM

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.
  • CHECK YOUR SYSTEM:
    • 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.

FEEDING CALVES FOR WINTER ENERGY NEEDS

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?

  • FEED LARGER VOLUMES OF THE SAME MIX
    • 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.
  • ADD AN EXTRA FEEDING
    • 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.
  • INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF POWDER
    • 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

Prevent Stinky, Slimy Haylage & Avoid Clostridia Haylage

Larry Roth, Provimi North America, Inc

You have been looking forward to feeding an excellent first-cut haylage but you find wet, slimy haylage with a smell not leaving your hands and, even worse, cows want no part of it! Sooner or later, many harvesting haylage end up in this situation. Recognizing the factors involved in formation of clostridia haylage and then managing accordingly can reduce these headaches.

A Perfect Storm for Clostridia Haylage

Numerous factors contribute to clostridia haylage. Legumes and small grains are popular choices for haylage; however, their higher protein and mineral content work as buffers against decreasing forage pH during fermentation and nutrient preservation. They are generally lower in water-soluble sugars, feeding the lactate-producing bacteria critical for reducing forage pH. Often, legumes and small grains are harvested when forage drying is difficult, entering fermentation wetter than desired. Further, while a disc mower enables a high rate of mowing and the air turbulence created under the hood lifts the forage for easier cutting, it also creates whirlwinds in the soil, increasing the chances of clostridia inoculation after heavy manure application.

Suggestions for Reducing Clostridia Haylage

Mow at 2.5-3″ cutting height. While raising the mower bar may reduce yield slightly, leaving more photosynthetic material speeds up plant growth for the next cutting and increases stand longevity. The higher height reduces soil incorporation from sickle bar mowers and lowers soil contamination from disc mowers. Twisted or angled disc blades are great for lifting heavy or lodged forage, but such blades also increase soil contamination.

Wide swaths encourage faster and more even drying. Mown forage will continue photosynthesis while lying in the field. Photosynthesis will combine CO2 and sunlight with forage moisture to create water-soluble sugars. This reaction is a win-win, with more sugars to foster fermentation and less water hauled to storage. Wide swaths enable forage to be heated by sunlight, causing wilting as the plant attempts to cool itself by moving stem moisture through leaves. If the swath is lying on a 2.5-3″ forage stubble, air can move under it to encourage drying and lessen the chances of moisture wicking into the mown crop from wet soil.

Manage raking, tedding, and merging equipment to reduce soil contamination. High-capacity forage choppers require wide swaths to be raked and merged for more efficient harvesting. Tedder use can speed up drying. Any time equipment touches the forage there is risk for soil incorporation and leaf loss. Consult your manufacturer and adjust equipment accordingly to minimize soil pick-up.

Chop haylage at <65% moisture. Hopefully sunshine has been fostering photosynthesis and causing wilting, and the wind has been removing moisture. Cloudy and humid days do not help. The wetter the haylage, the more lactate must be produced to sufficiently lower forage pH to preserve nutrients. Further, clostridia like higher pH conditions. Waiting for appropriate moisture may test a person’s patience, but it is a critical step in the process.

Inoculate with lactate-producing bacteria to decrease forage pH. Inoculation helps overcome inherent forage buffering capacity and acidifies water in haylage. Most companies supply haylage-specific inoculants providing 200,000+ colony-forming units per gram of forage, or recommend doubling applications of standard products in challenging conditions. Fermentation can be summed as “The side that gets there first with the most wins.” A few suppliers have developed organisms and products specifically designed for clostridia-prone situations.

Pack haylage to remove oxygen and stop plant respiration. Chopped plants in storage are deprived of sunlight, and consequently conduct the “dark reaction” (respiration reaction of photosynthesis; O2 and sugars combine creating H2O, CO2, and heat). The minimal O2 present in well-packed haylage is quickly used up in plant respiration. Lactic fermentation can then occur to rapidly reduce forage pH and hinder clostridia growth. Clostridia Haylage Does Not Have to Happen!

Forage, weather, and agronomic conditions can come together at the wrong time to cause clostridia haylage. Developing a plan to reduce potential for clostridia haylage can improve overall haylage quality and limit chances of being greeted by a stinky, slimy mess.

What Caused The Molds and Mycotoxins In My Forages?

Article by Larry Roth, Provimi North America, Inc

Imagine the scene: Your nutritionist walks into your office, sits down across the desk from you, and hands you assays of your forages that indicate you have high levels of molds and mycotoxins. “Where did these evil organisms come from?”, you ask. It is helpful to be aware of the many factors at play when forages are affected by molds and mycotoxins.

A mycotoxin is a secondary metabolite produced by mold. One mold species may produce many different mycotoxins, and several mold species may produce the same mycotoxin. High mold levels do not necessarily mean mycotoxin levels will be high. Different micro-environmental conditions can trigger production of varying levels of various mycotoxins by a given mold species. The exact environmental triggers for particular mycotoxins and levels are not precisely clear, but understanding and managing the factors contributing to mold growth can lessen mycotoxin presence in forages.

There are favorable and optimum temperature ranges for growth of the Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium molds (Figure 1). Certain Aspergillus and Penicillium molds prefer warm, Summer conditions, while Fusarium generally thrive in cooler temperatures, as in the Fall, for optimal growth. Aspergillus molds are the primary aflatoxin producers; aflatoxin is most commonly observed in heat and drought conditions. Although a few Penicillium molds produce aflatoxin, most members of this genus produce mycotoxins of lesser importance. The Fusarium genus is perhaps of greatest concern in the Upper Midwest due to the production of vomitoxin (DON), zearalenone, and fumonisin mycotoxins. Fusarium species like the cool, wet conditions which have come to typify Fall in the Midwest.

Figure 1. Favorable and Optimum Temperature Ranges For Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium molds

While forage producers cannot control temperature, rainfall, and humidity, they can influence other factors involved in mold growth and the potential for mycotoxin production.

Soil Health: A healthy and diverse microbial population in the soil will enhance crop residue degradation, which could otherwise serve as a mold reservoir. A young corn plant pushing its first green leaf through last year’s crop residue could become infected with harmful molds. Healthy soil will also have greater water-holding capacity to sustain growing plants during dry spells and allow water to readily drain during excessive rainfall. Proper tillage can maintain some surface residue to reduce soil erosion, while excessive tillage may reduce soil aggregation, lowering nutrient and water-holding capabilities.

Agronomic Practices: Any stressors on the plant can tip plant health in favor of mold production. Proper planting time, plant population, plant genetics, insect control, and fungicide use are among the many agronomic practices that influence plant health and can bolster the plant in its battle against harmful molds.

Harvest Conditions: Timing harvest before the appearance of cool, wet conditions favorable for Fusarium growth may reduce molds and mycotoxins brought from the field to the silage storage structure. Chopping at a proper moisture, reducing chop length as the crop dries, and proper packing can reduce mold growth during ensiling. Segregating mold-infected crops from clean forages during ensiling may pose logistical challenges, but could pay-off in animal health and production by keeping clean forages clean and enabling feeding strategies based on animal susceptibility to mycotoxins.

Storage and Feed-Out Conditions: Proper packing to exclude oxygen is essential in controlling the growth of aerobic molds, such as Fusarium and most Aspergillus. Recent research suggests P. roqueforti may continue growing in well-packed silage, however. Mold spores can survive ensiling, and then start growing with the reintroduction of oxygen and proper temperature at feed-out. Proper feed-out practices are always essential when managing ensiled feeds, and even more critical with forages infected with mold at harvest.

High mold levels do not necessarily mean high mycotoxin concentrations in forage. On the other hand, mycotoxin concentrations could be high in forage with low mold counts due to toxin production pre-ensiling. Viewing a forage assay with high mold counts or high mycotoxin levels is never a pleasant experience for a forage producer. Taking the time to review the production practices that resulted in the particular forage can help change the course for future forage crops, however.

Feed Troubles May Be Lurking

If going directly from monsoon season to the middle of winter weren’t bad enough, it appears that Wisconsin’s dairy and livestock producers may need to keep their eyes open for something lurking in their feeds: mycotoxins.

For those not familiar with the term, mycotoxins are stable toxic compounds produced by some molds that can accumulate in both the corn grain and the stalk. When eaten, these compounds can lead to a variety of health hazards in livestock and humans, including suppressed intakes, a pronounced drop in milk production, and abortions or other reproductive issues.

This fall’s excess precipitation—further delaying an already late harvest—along with warm days and cool nights, have set the stage for near-perfect growing conditions for several molds in the corn crop. According to several Landmark agronomists, this year’s biggest offenders appear to be Gibberella/Fusarium and Diplodia ear rot, as well as Gibberella and Anthracnose stalk rot.

In terms of potential mycotoxin production, the pink-colored Gibberella/Fusarium molds are likely to cause the biggest issues. These are the molds responsible for vomitoxin (deoxynivalenol or DON), zearalonone, T-2, and fumonisin. In the feed and grain industry, we often use vomitoxin testing as a marker to judge the severity of a mycotoxin issue in the feed.

To be clear, the presence of these molds does not automatically result in high levels of mycotoxins. However, early testing of this year’s corn crop at our grain facilities is showing some instances of highly elevated levels of vomitoxin. Rock River Laboratory in Whitewater also reported elevated vomitoxin levels in some TMR samples from both the Midwest and eastern United States. The graph below is from their October 18, 2019 “Data Distillations” report.

Landmark is working hard to ensure safe feed production for our customers. As a precaution, all loads of corn entering the Landmark Animal Nutrition facilities are being tested prior to dumping to ensure the inventory for feed production remains below 2.0 ppm vomitoxin. Since corn byproducts also tend to concentrate the mycotoxin levels, we’re in regular communication with suppliers regarding their testing and labeling of products. Additionally, in order to preserve the integrity of the marketable corn, Landmark Grain locations are monitoring vomitoxin levels each day. In some cases, we are testing individual loads as well, depending on the overall levels coming into that location.

It’s important to remember that vomitoxin levels alone may not give producers a clear-cut answer on what to expect regarding reduced performance. In many cases, vomitoxin levels do serve as a guide for the overall level of concern we should be taking regarding other mycotoxins. Cattle generally tend to be less susceptible than monogastrics such as swine and poultry. That said, depending on the levels and combinations of mycotoxins in the total diet, serious economic loss can also occur in dairy cattle.

As you begin distributing this year’s feedstuffs to your herd, keep an eye on feed intakes, milk production, overall herd health, and reproductive performance. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to address those with our nutritionist and veterinarian. In many cases, we can provide options to minimize the effects.

And as you wrap up this fall’s harvest and field work, be sure to bring up any mycotoxin concerns with your agronomist. They can help you select more Gibberella-resistant varieties, determine proper crop rotation and nutrient management, and schedule fungicide applications.