Cows and Crops, March 2017


In this issue:

Upcoming Events

Precision Ag Meeting: Upgrading Your Cropping Systems with Precision Agriculture

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 from 9:30-2:30 at the Best Western, 375 Main St, Waterville, ME

Pre-registration is required. For more info and to register.

2017 Maine Dairy Seminar & MDIA Annual Meeting

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at the Elks Lodge in Waterville, ME

Sponsored by the Maine Dairy Industry Association, registration for this event is free for dairy farmers and includes refreshments and lunch. Advanced Registration by mail, email, phone or fax must be received by Monday, March 6, 2017. Registration after this date or at the door will be $25.

Guest Speaker is Tom Kilcer of Kinderhook, NY, a private consultant conducting research on forages crops and plant nutrition in partnerships with both university and private industry. His topic for this event is: “Forage Strategies for Northeast Dairy Farms”. Dr. Juan Romero, Assistant Professor of Animal Science with the University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture, will also speak about his Enzyme and Silage Inoculant Research. The Seminar also includes the MDIA Annual Meeting, Maine Dairy Shrine Award, and Industry Updates.

For more information, or to register, contact Melissa Libby at or 1.800.287.7170, or Fax 207.581.4430.

2017 Maine Grass Farmers Network Annual Grazing Conference

March 18, 2017 from 8:30am – 3:30 pm at the Alfond Campus, KVCC, US Rt 201, Hinckley, ME

Featuring Keynote Speakers: Dr. Fred Provenza, Dr. Hue Karreman and Suzanne Nelson

For more info and to register.

Tractor Safety Courses in Maine

Many of you may be employing teenagers on your farm this summer or maybe even have some new employees who have never driven tractors before. For youth ages 14-16, who are not family members, they need to have taken and passed an approved tractor safety class for them to be able to operate machinery as part of their employment on a farm.

UMaine Cooperative Extension will be offering approved tractor safety classes in several counties this spring. Dates and locations are currently being finalized and information can be found at our tractor safety website.

Currently the plan is to hold classes in Cumberland, Knox/Lincoln, Waldo, Kennebec and Oxford Counties. For more information, contact Rick Kersbergen at 207.342.5971 or

Northeastern Region Annual Milk Production Report

By Bob Parsons, UVM

Highlights: Annual Milk Production for 2016 up 1.8%, average milk production was 22,774 lbs per cow, Jan milk production up 2.7%, with cow numbers up, All major states up in milk.  Maine up 6.1%! Class III milk prices at $16 neighborhood through Sept, Crop prices flat to slightly lower, MPP Margins for next year above insurable levels of $8 with lowest at $9.50.  (See MPP Expectations in Table at end of Email).

Milk production was up 1.8% from 2015 at 212 billion pounds. Annual total milk production has increased 14.4 percent from 2007. Production per cow in the United States averaged 22,774 pounds per cow for 2016, 378 pounds above 2015 and up 12.7% from 2007.

The average number of milk cows on farms in the United States during 2016 was 9.33 million head, up 0.2 percent from 2015. The average annual number of milk cows has increased 1.5 percent from 2007.

Annual Production across the US in 2016:

California was up -1.0%
Idaho was up 3.9%
New Mexico was down -1.5%
Texas was up 4.6%

Upper Mid-West and Northeast:
Minnesota was up 2.2%
Wisconsin was up 3.5%
Michigan was up 6.0%
Pennsylvania was up 0.2%
New York was up 4.8%

In Maine milk was up in 2016 by 6.1% to 630 Million lbs. and milk per cow at 21,000 lbs. from 19,800 lbs. in 2015

Point of interest: Highest average milk product in the US was 25,980 lbs. per cow in Colorado followed by Michigan with 25,957.

January 2017 Report:
Milk production in January was up 2.7%, following a 2.6% in December. Production per cow was up 37 lbs per cow per month from last year. Cow numbers in the US in January was up 67,0000 over last year and 6.000 more than December 2016.

Production across the US in January:

California was up 0.7%
Idaho was up 1.0%
New Mexico was up 15.3%
Texas was up 19.2%

Upper Mid-West and Northeast:
Minnesota was up 1.7%
Wisconsin was up 1.0%
Michigan was up 3.5%
Pennsylvania was up 2.0%
New York was up 3.8%
Tidbits: Milk is coming back in Texas and New Mexico over last year’s snow disaster.

Milk Prices: Class III prices dropped in later months and remain at $16 throughout the year to hit a high of $17 level by Sept.  Class IV dropped for near months and by Sept are still $1 below Class III prices.  Remember that Mexico is our biggest milk trading partner so be apprehensive about trade conflicts.

CME Prices February 24, 2017

Class III Class IV
February $16.86 $15.66
March $16.23 $15.09
April $16.23 $14.60
May $16.43 $14.85
June $16.65 $15.10
July $16.96 $15.43
August $17.09 $15.72
September $17.10 $15.88
October $17.09 $16.00

Feed Prices: Corn and meal prices are about the same with soybean prices dipping some. Until we have planting reports, prices likely to remain the same. Remember trade pacts, China buys most of our soybean exports.

CME Prices February 24, 2017

Corn Soy Meal
March 17 $3.56 $10.16 $333
September 17 $3.85 $10.19 $337
December 17 $3.92 $10.14 $332

Milk Feed Ratio
The M-F ratio for November increased to 2.7, showing a more favorable milk to feed price.

Milk-Feed Ratio
Nov 15: 2.42
Dec 15: 2.27
Jan 16: 2.14
Feb 16: 2.15
Mar 16: 2.08
Apr 16: 1.97
May 16: 1.89
June 16: 1.91
July 16: 2.14
Sept 16: 2.47
Oct 16: 2.37
Nov 16: 2.56
Dec 16: 2.70

Return over Feed Costs for MPP program: The expected return over feed costs for Jan-Feb is $10.65.  The next 12 months shows expected returns from $9.50 to $10.39.  From the current estimates, it does not look that taking MPP insurance would pay this year but we can never be sure if feed prices will rise or milk prices drop or both.

* For the table above, the 2% in the May-June 2017 column and < $7.50 row means there is a 2% expected chance at this time that the return over feed costs will drop below $$7.50 per cwt for the May-June period. The expected return over feed costs for May-June 2017 is $9.50 per cwt.

Farm Safety

By Richard Kersbergen, UMaine Extension, 

As winter looses its grip on us and spring begins, it is critical that you and your equipment are ready to go. As you all know, timely harvests are the number one factor in having quality forage for your cows and the most important way to help improve profitability on your farm. Having your equipment ready to plant or harvest is critical to quality forage.

While getting your equipment functional is one aspect, improving the safety of your equipment is also key to good spring preparation. Agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the nation. You are constantly exposed to the risk of physical injury from powerful and dangerous equipment along with exposure to noise, hazardous chemicals, dusts and molds.

Although Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been p[roven to prevent injury and promote farmer’s health, access to the necessary equipment can sometimes be a limiting factor, especially in rural settings. This past winter at the Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta, Cooperative Extension, through a partnership with Bassett Hospital and the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), was able to give away PTO shaft replacement guards and Slow Moving Vehicle signs (SMV). Based on the fact that our supply was gone within a few hours of the opening day, there is obviously a need to farmers for this safety equipment!

NYCAMH and the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety in Agriculture Forestry and Fishing (NEC) has created a PPE program that offers a variety of selected products that are affordable and appropriate for farmers. The program features convenient access, low costs and an inventory of continually updated merchandise. The products are available by mail. The catalog is online and features equipment and PPE that should be part of your spring “tune-up” program.

These products, such as the PTO shields, SMV signs along with a eye, ear and other PPE products can also be ordered by phone at 1.800.343.7527.

Don’t let you, your family or your employees become another injury or death statistic. Prepare by making sure that you and your equipment are reading for spring!

2017 Maine 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl Results

On February 19, 2017 4-H dairy youth from all over the state gathered at the University of Maine – Augusta for the Maine Dairy Quiz Bowl and Eastern States Dairy Quiz Bowl Team Selection. Twenty youth participated, 7 in the Junior Division and 13 in the Senior Division.

The winning junior was Sydney Bullard. In the seniors, the winner was Keltan Tanguay. The Eastern States Team which represent Maine at the Big E will be Keltan, along with Mackensie Schofield, Owen Brown and Bradley Smith. Alternates for the team will be Elizabeth Clock and Gabbie Guillemette.

Now Is the Time to Plan Your Forage Inventory for Next Year

A few months ago I wrote a short article on using Pearson Square to calculate the ratio of forages to best balance rations for different groups of cattle on your farm. Armed with that information, you can calculate the amounts of forage needed for the coming forage season so that you are ready for the next year of feeding.

For example, if you needed to mix 50% corn silage and 50% grass silage to get the desired forage energy in your mix, you would take the daily lbs of dry matter of each forage to feed the cows in that group each day. You would repeat this exercise for each group of cattle on your farm (different groups will likely need different ratios of the feed you have available). Converting the tons of dry matter needed back to as-fed lbs of feed gives you a rough estimate of the total tons of each forage needed to get through the next years’ feeding period.

We can’t stop there, because we need to determine how many tons of feed need to be harvested and put in the silo so that adequate forage is available for feeding. So we have to correct the tons of feed delivered to animals to include an accounting for harvest, storage and feedout losses. Depending on your farm operation, this may be all fermented feed or a combination of fermented feed and dry hay. The University of Wisconsin has some useful estimates of feedout losses in their publication “Feedout Losses from Forage Storage Systems” by Jerry Clark, Brian Holmes and Richard Muck. The following tables from that publication detail dry hay losses with different feeding systems.

Hay wasted by cows when fed with and without racks

Bale Type Percent Wasted
Square bale in rack 7
Large round bale in rack 9
Large round bale w/out rack 45

From: Anderson, B., and Mader, T., 1996. University of Nebraska, “Management to Minimize Hay Waste,” Publication G84-738-A

Hay wasted by cows when large round bales are fed with different racks

Bale Type Percent Wasted
Cone feeder 3.5
Ring Feeder 6.1
Trailer Feeder 11.4
Cradle Feeder 14.6

From: Buskirk, D.D., A.J. Zanella, T.M. harrigan, J.L. Van Lente, L.M. Gnagey and M.J. Kaercher. 2003. Large round bale feeder design affects hay utilization and beef cow behavior. J. Anim. Sci. 2003. 81:109-115.

The Wisconsin authors estimate that cattle with access to free choice hay waste more than those who are fed what is needed on a daily basis; that estimate ranges from 25-45% more hay needed.

Every producer works to pack their silos as tight as possible to exclude air and setup conditions for good fermentation. Other factors that affect silage spoilage are the amount of face fed out on a daily basis and how silage is removed from the silo face (ie. minimizing the amount of oxygen incorporated into the silo face; this is why silo facers work well compared with bucket loaders). The Wisconsin publication has a very nice graphic showing dry matter loss of silage of different densities as the inches of silage fed off the face increases. As you can imagine, the smaller amount of face removed per day and the less dense the silage is packed increases the dry matter loss. In looking at their graph of dry matter loss, a feedout rate of 2 inches per day corresponds roughly to a dry matter loss of 12% for silage at 30 lbs per sq ft, 10% at 40 lbs per sq ft, 6% at 50 lbs per sq ft and 3% at 60 lbs per sq ft. Three percent is the goal. The tighter the silage is packed and the more face fed per day decreases the dry matter loss; once you get to 8 inches of face fed per day, all the densities are at or below 3% dry matter loss (these are my estimates from looking at the graph).

Further detail on dry matter losses can be found at either Pitt, R.E. and R.E. Muck. 1993. A diffusion model of aerobic deterioration at the exposed face of bunker silos. J. Agricultural Engineering Research 55:11-26. Or Holmes, B.J. and R.E. Muck 2007. Packing Bunker and Piles to Maximize Forage Preservation. Proceedings of the Sixth International Dairy Housing Conference. ASABE and Harvest and Storage page of Team Forage website.

These data can be helpful in designing bunker silos for use on your farm. The Wisconsin researchers recommend never removing less than 4 inches of face during the summer and 3 inches in the winter with an estimate of a foot a day. A way to compare your silo with these recommendations is to calculate how much silage is removed from a silo per day. Make sure you record the amount of feed loaded out of the silo into your mixer wagon; record any feed that is not included in the mix, but is discarded. Mark the silo wall at the beginning of a day and then mark the silo wall after feed has been removed for 10 days. Measure the distance the face has moved in inches and divide by 10. How does the inches of face fed on your farm compare with the recommendations? Calculating the area of your silo face can then be used with the total lbs of feed removed to calculate the density of forage in your bunker silo. (Remember, this is based on the height of the silo face being constant through the measuring period). How does your density of silage compare with the numbers above? Calculating the lbs of feed removed that was put into the mixer wagon can give you a percent of feed removed that is fed. Feed that is fed and not consumed can give you information on the intake of your cattle. All very important information for your farm management and your nutrition advisor. These data can be helpful in designing the appropriate width of a feeding face for your herd and can be helpful in designing or redesigning silage storage changes for the farm.

I have pulled out just a few numbers that you can collect on your bunker silo to get an estimate of your potential losses.  Holmes and Muck estimate that total dry matter losses in a covered bunker silo are in the range of 16-23% for silage harvested at 70% moisture and 18-31% for silage harvested at 60% moisture. These dramatically increase the lbs of forage you need to have in your silos to feed your cows all year.   All of these increase the cost of forage harvested, but also increase the amount of forage you need to feed your animals. I have only discussed bunker silos in this article, but there are similar calculations for tower silos, bags, and piles. More detailed information can be found at Preventing Silage Storage Losses by B.J. Holmes and R.E. Muck, University of Wisconsin-Madison and US Dairy Forage Research Center, respectively. See the full article (PDF).

Evaluating Your Own Farm Shop

By Richard Brzozowski, University of Maine Cooperative Extension,

This list of questions is designed to help bring attention to items or conditions that may need to be corrected or improved in your farm shop. The end goal is to make your shop safe and useful. As you respond to each question, think of ways to optimize any aspect of your shop. Make a list of the steps or actions you would like to do for specific improvements. Prioritize the steps that you plan to take for improving your farm shop. Consider accomplishing easy-to-correct steps first (perhaps those that take little time or of low cost).

Ask yourself the following questions.

Consider involving key workers and/or family members to address these questions.

  1. Is there enough space for the functions that need to be accomplished in the shop?
    Consider every season when contemplating shop functions. Yes___   No___

If there’s not enough space, what can I do to improve space issues?

  1. Can all farm equipment be pulled into the shop for repair or for preventative maintenance? Yes___  No___

If not, is there a way to rectify the situation?

  1. Is my farm shop equipped with the necessary equipment and tools (hand tools and power tools) for the tasks I typically perform? Yes___   No___

If not, what equipment or tools should I consider obtaining?

  1. Are the equipment and tools in my farm shop in good working order? Yes___   No___

If not, what equipment or tools need to be discarded, repaired or replaced?

  1. Is my shop well organized? Yes___   No___

Can I (or others) find any tool when needed?

Can I (or others) find any supply item when needed?

Can I (or others) find all operators manuals?

Can I (or others) find all materials safety data sheets?

  1. Is my shop clean and tidy (uncluttered)? Yes___   No___

If not, what can be done to improve this aspect of the shop?

  1. Can I move about the shop easily? Consider flooring and flow of work. Yes___   No___

If not, what can be done to improve this aspect of the shop?

  1. Is there adequate electrical power to all units (circuits)? Yes___   No___

If not, what can be done to improve this aspect of the shop?

  1. Is light (natural and provided) adequate for the tasks that I typically need to perform? Yes___   No___

If not, what can be done to improve this aspect of the shop?

  1. Can I work comfortably in any season in my farm shop? Yes___   No___

Is the shop dry?

Is the shop warm?

Can the shop be heated when necessary?

  1. Is my shop well ventilated for good air exchange especially when welding, grinding, sanding, sand blasting or painting (or when fumes might exist)? Yes___   No___

If not, what can be done to improve this aspect of the shop?

  1. Is there a phone in the farm shop (or some means to call in or call out)? Yes___   No___

If not, what can be done to improve this aspect of the shop?

  1. Is there a first aid kit and is it well stocked? Yes___   No___

If not, what should be added or replaced in the kit?

  1. Is all of the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) easily available and in good working condition?
  2. If not, what can be done to improve this aspect?
  1. Is any part of the shop a hazardous area? Yes___   No___

If not, what can be done to improve this aspect of the shop?

  1. Is my shop securable to restrict entry by others? Yes___   No___

If not, what can be done to improve this aspect of the shop?

  1. Is all powered equipment in my shop unplugged and/or locked out when not in use? Yes___   No___
  1. Do I have a restroom facility that is convenient to the shop?          Yes___   No___
  1. Is there a place in my farm shop where a worker can clean up (such as a sink or shower)? Yes___  No___