In the June Guernsey Breeders' Journal, owners and mangers from the nation's top-producing herds shared insight on their feeding programs.
by Amanda Smith, Hoard's Dairyman Associate Editor
Earlier this spring, the Hoard's Dairyman Farm was contacted by the Guernsey Breeders' Journal to participate in its June issue's production roundtable. For those who receive the journal, our farm manager's responses, along with those from Knapp's Guernseys, Epworth, Iowa; and Rolling Acres, Columbus, Wis., can be read on pages 22 and 23. Farm manager Jason Yurs' responses to the questions we were posed on our feeding program are below, for producers who don't receive the publication. Tyler Elsner, too, is an integral part of this area on the farm, in his role as Hoard's Dairyman Farm feeder.
Give a brief description of your feeding program:
A total mixed ration (TMR) is fed at the Hoard's Dairyman Farm. For the most part, we have one diet across the board for the milking herd. Cows are fed once a day with feed push-ups occurring 10 to 12 times over the course of a day.
Do you work with a nutritionist?
Yes, we work with Matt Kooiman who is with Vita Plus, a regional feed and nutrition company based in Madison, Wis. He isn't solely a nutritionist, though. He also serves in a consulting role, providing input on all aspects of the operation.
If so, explain that process:
Our nutritionist makes weekly visits to the farm. He monitors our TMR Tracker software along with the recipes or rations that are being sent to the tractor for the feeder to mix. Our nutritionist also evaluates intakes and inventories to ensure we are on target. While he's on the dairy, he does a walk-through and samples forages bi-weekly. He balances our diets for amino acids as well. This allows us to feed a lower crude protein diet but still achieve above-average component levels.
Beyond the milking herd, he evaluates our young stock and wet calf programs. Our nutritionist also serves as a link between the Hoard's Dairyman Farm and the resources that the nutrition company has to offer.
How do you incorporate forage? Grains? Mineral supplements?
The diet we feed to the milking herd is currently formulated at 52 percent forage, 19 percent by-product feeds, with the remaining 29 percent coming from concentrate. The forage portion of the ration is a 50/50 mix of corn silage and haylage. Ration by-products include brewers grains and whey permeate. For the concentrate portion, we have a mineral package and dry corn grain.
How do you manage individual production?
Across the herd, we try to target an average production in the high 60s or low 70s. When cows are milking between 68 to 70 pounds on average, it equates to 90 pounds of energy- corrected milk. This measure puts us on a level playing field and allows us to compare our production with all breeds across the industry.
What percentage of your herd is Guernsey versus other breeds and what are they?
The herd is currently 40 percent Guernseys. The remainder are Jerseys.
Do you feed differently for each breed? And if so, why?
There is a slight difference between the diets fed to the two breeds, but for the most part it is the same ration. The Guernsey diets are a percent higher in starch; this is the only difference. The Guernseys seem to be able to handle a touch more starch, and it gives us a few extra pounds of milk production. The dry matter intakes between the two breeds are virtually even.
How does your facility set up play into your feeding program free choice, individualized, etc.?
Feed is delivered via a TMR once a day, and cows have free-choice access via a post and rail feed aisle.
What key components, in your opinion are vital to your successful herd production?
In our opinion, it is key to start with and maintain a focus on forage and how crops are managed. While we control enough land to produce our own forage, it is all custom harvested. This means communicating our expectations to those we work with throughout the growing season.
It is also essential to find the right balance between quality and quantity. For storage, you have to make sure the product is ensiled properly; we use inoculants at harvest to aid this process.
Finally, you have to measure your forage moisture content and adjust the diet accordingly. Doing so allows us to deliver a consistent, well-blended diet to the feedbunks. We also try to keep costs in perspective. With amino acid balancing, we strive to keep feed costs below 12 cents per pound of dry matter. This enables us to keep our feed cost under $5 per cow per day.
The author is an associate editor and an animal science graduate of Cornell University. Smith covers feeding, milk quality and heads up the World Dairy Expo Supplement. She grew up on a Medina, N.Y., dairy, and interned at a 1,700-cow western New York dairy, a large New York calf and heifer farm, and studied in New Zealand for one semester.
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