cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, June 15, 2013

Robust discussions about fence chargers, mowers, balancing cow rations, and more.

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Producer, NODPA President

Added June 15, 2013. A producer asked the group if anyone had experience with Reese Drum Mowers sold by Tigerco. A responding farmer said he has used a Reese 3400 mower for 6 years. He felt the machine was solidly built, and cuts hay nicely; it took at least 80 hp to run it well.

A heifer calf was born blind in one eye, and the farmer asked if anything should be done to the vacant eye socket. Another producer who had raised a blind calf into a cow in the milking herd said their vet agreed that nothing needed to be done to the eye.

There was a discussion on the use of glycerin in teat dips, and one veterinarian shared a recipe for a homemade teat dip that one of his clients has used successfully for years: Take one gallon of distilled water, and add 2 ounces of glycerin and 2 ounces of 35% hydrogen peroxide.

A farmer was looking for a good fence charger and asked for suggestions, and he noted he was especially interested in solar fencers. One producer highly recommended Taylor Fence, Inc (makers of the Cyclops chargers). He likes that they are American-made, easy to repair, and have built in lightening protection. Another producer was impressed with his solar Premier fencer; it only rates at 2 joules, but has worked well for him all summer. Another producer has a reliable 15-20 year old Parmak solar-integrated 6v that has held a charge well in rainy/cloudy weather. Another suggestion was to pair a fence charger with a larger solar panel since the northeast has periods of rainy/cloudy days which can lead to failure of the fence. He uses a Patriot P30 with a 30w solar panel.

There was an in-depth discussion on balancing cow rations for good milk production with minimal supplemented grain. One producer examined another farmer’s methods -- he achieved a 60 lbs per day production average on a no-grain diet. His success was due to ultra-high feed values in his forages. He attributed his success not to one magic bullet, but attention to many details in the system. It was suggested that a producer focus on harvesting top quality forages with high sugar content. “Sugar is equal in energy to starch, but does not promote S. bovis (the rumen bugs that can cause acidosis) in the rumen.” He calls these S. bovis microbes “rumen weeds”, and they are found to be the dominant microbes in cows rumens with a depressed pH. These cows are inefficient at digesting forage fiber, and need more feed relative to the milk produced or the weight gained. “High production does not necessarily indicate a good diet or a healthy cow. Many cows with this problem have poor longevity and turn over cows in under 2 lactations.” The key to efficient no-grain production is getting high energy (in the form of sugar) in the forages. The hay-in-a-day approach was recommended to achieve these results. Early cut triticale silage, annual ryegrass, BMR sorghum/sudan can all be used to get these high quality forages, if made correctly.

A sudden rainstorm dropped 6 inches of rain overnight, flooding a field that had been round baled. The bales stood in standing water for 3 hours, and the farmer was hoping to be able to salvage the hay by wrapping it. Recommendations were varied. Several farmers thought that the wet hay would likely bring on mycotoxins in the feed if it was wrapped. Others thought that the hay might be dried successfully by rolling the wet side up for the sun to dry.

A farmer asked the group what organic grain prices were doing recently, especially about small grains. The following summarizes how one grain dealer/feedmill sees the situation: There are some good deals on small grains out there, but be especially careful when you purchase grain this year due to the erratic weather. If you are purchasing feed grade wheat, you should ask for the vomitoxin level. For barley, much of the winter barley was harvested at a high moisture content, so went through a grain dryer. Although not a big issue in your grain scoop, this will affect germination rates. So if you are buying it for fodder seed, find good barley with good germination. Triticale seems to be good this year; both yield and quality are good, and no vomitoxin were found in tests performed at this location. Oats came with a great deal of weeds this year (usually ragweed). Unless the oats are cleaned after combining, the oats will pick up moisture from the weed seeds, and begin to heat. There is some great corn out there in the Northeast, but a poor crop in areas of the Midwest, so it is hard to predict where corn prices will go; although this experienced grain dealer suggested that corn prices will be $50 to $75 less than one year ago.