Although the 2013 growing season featured much more
precipitation than the previous year in Illinois, that doesn’t mean dairymen had
an easy time producing high-quality forage for their herds.
“Some of you are facing a forage cliff that is a little
different than a year ago,” said Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois dairy
specialist emeritus. “You have a little different kind of crop this year
compared to other years.”
Hutjens spoke at the “Focusing on Profitability” 2014 Dairy
Summit. During 2013, more than 1.7 million acres of alfalfa were winter killed,
he reported at the meeting.
In addition, a wet spring delayed corn planting, which also
delayed cutting alfalfa. Then some areas experienced dry areas in August and
September, there was a killing frost in mid-September in some areas and some
corn was green and immature in October.
Hutjens provided several options for dairymen to consider
when they have reduced forage production.
“If you planted winter wheat for next spring, that can be a
very high-quality crop,” he said. “It can produce from one to two tons of dry
matter per acre in the boot stage or three to four tons of dry matter per acre
if you let it go to the dough stage.”
Other options are late-planted corn in July that can yield
from three to four tons of dry matter per acre or a fall cereal grain such as
oats has the potential to produce from one to two tons of dry matter per acre.
“I’m not sure what hand you will get dealt to you next May,
June or July, so these are opportunities to consider,” Hutjens said.
Some dairymen are switching to making shredlage instead of
To produce effective fiber with shredlage, Hutjens said, the
feed should include five pounds of feed particles over three-quarters of an inch
and less than two inches in length.
“The particles should be under two inches to prevent sorting
by the cows,” he added.
However, processing shredlage feed will add some
“It will cost an additional $25 per hour to cover extra fuel
and other costs,” Hutjens said. “You will need two gallons more fuel per hour
and you will pay from $1.50 to $2 more per ton to custom operators to cover
Kernel-processing score is another tool dairymen can use to
“This data from a Wisconsin lab shows that less than 20
percent of the samples were in the excellent category,” Hutjens noted.
“If your kernel-processing score is adequate and you move up
to an excellent score, that’s two pounds more milk and all you did was process
the feed correctly,” he said. “However if you do a poor job and go to a poor
kernel-processing score, you give up another two pounds of milk.”
Hutjens recommends all dairymen use a program such as
FeedVal 2012 to evaluate the various feeds they have available to put in a
“For FeedVal 2012, you pick whatever feeds you want to use
and you put in your feed values,” he explained.
As farmers and livestock producers know, no two years are
the same, and it seems like each year presents some type of challenge. With the
very low temperatures we’ve been experiencing and the multiple snow storms, I
wonder what kind of growing season we will have this year.