Now that most crops are in storage it’s time to plan the forage utilization for the coming year. It is tempting to rely on previous experience in determining forage needs. However, this can lead to some costly management mistakes.
Forage quality has a large impact on feed cost, animal performance and health. As an example, high quality corn silage with low fiber (<25%ADF, <35% NDF) and high energy (>0.76 Mcal/lb. of DM) supplies nutrients very economically. Rations using this forage as compared to average quality corn silage might consist of 3 more lb. of DM from corn silage and replace needed supplemental energy from corn grain or other energy sources. For every 100 cows this would amount to 156 more tons of corn silage used annually. High utilization might result in depletion of the inventory before the next year’s crop is harvested. Likewise poorer quality silage will be used in lower amounts but will require more supplemental energy sources and higher purchased feed costs.
To prevent these mistakes:
Allocating time to estimate available forage supply and quality will enable the best utilization of the forage inventory. If a forage deficit is anticipated, it’s easier to acquire needed forage in the fall than in the spring when forages to purchase may be in short supply.
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
September 30, 2015