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Cows and Crops – October 2017

Monday, September 25th, 2017
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In this issue:

Upcoming Events

ISU Extension and Outreach Dairy Specialist hosts “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
September 26, 2017 at 1:00 PM

On September 26, Larry will discuss organic and organic “grassfed” dairy systems. Webinars will also include videos from producers in each of these systems. These webinars are sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and North Central Risk Management Education Center.

If you’d like to join the webinar, log onto the ISU Dairy Webinars as a guest at 1:00 EST on September 26th.

Also, ISU has an excellent collection of free dairy budgets across all systems, production levels, etc. as well as a blank budget template and explanatory materials on their website.

The New England Dairy Summit and Holstein Convention
October 27-28, 2017

This exciting event is open to anyone involved in the dairy industry.  The program truly offers something for everyone, including:

  • IDEXX facility tour: Tour IDEXX company headquarters to learn more about their animal diagnostic tools and research
  • Farm Tours: Visit four Maine dairy herds to view their cattle and learn more about their herd management- Juniper Farms, Pineland, Brigeen, Conant Acres
  • Maine Product Showcase: Enjoy samples of Maine specialty food and beverage products, including cheese, maple, potatoes, blueberries, cider, wine and craft beer
  • Dairy Girl Network Connect Event: Women in agriculture are invited to attend a networking event hosted by the Dairy Girl Network. This is the first event they have hosted in New England.
  • Interesting featured speakers and presentations by:
    • Mr. Walter Whitcomb- Maine Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
    • Dr. David Kirk, Leader of Technical Services for North American, Phibro Animal Health Corporation
    • Stan Erwine, Vice-President of Farmer Relations at Dairy Management Inc.
    • Robotic Milking Panel- hear from New England dairy producers that have transitioned to robotic milking systems during this panel discussion
  • Traditional Maine Lobster Bake
  • Youth activities, which include a pizza party at a trampoline park, dairy knowledge and public speaking competitions and a folding display contest.

Visit New England States Holstein Association’s website for the brochure, registration materials and further information.

2017 Census of Agriculture — We Need Your Help!

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service is preparing to conduct the 2017 Census of Agriculture and is asking for your help to promote it. Questionnaires will be mailed in late December. This information is critical to Maine agriculture.  The results of the Ag. census have been used to influence policy decisions and resource allocations.  We highly encourage Maine farmers to complete the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

The Maine Tier Program Needs You!

Many of you have received several notices about the need for Maine Dairy Cost of Production Study data for 2016. This study needs to be done every three years to maintain the Maine Tier program.

The process for the data collection is not very difficult. While sharing your data with us in a confidential manner is probably not your idea of a good time, I think most of you would agree that collecting the tier payments has been beneficial to your farm business.

So before you throw out the next notice or send back a reply that you don’t want to participate, realize that the tier program mandates that the information be collected from a significant number of farms. If we cannot get enough participants, it does not reflect well on the Tier program going forward.

For some of you, participation in the study will also be helpful in managing your farm business going forward.  If you have declined to participate and now want to join, please contact Gary Anderson at

Dairy Producers Can Enroll for 2018 Coverage

Secretary Allows Producers to Opt Out

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced that starting Sept. 1, 2017, dairy producers, can enroll  for 2018 coverage in the Margin Protection Program (MPP-Dairy). Secretary Sonny Perdue has utilized additional flexibility this year by providing dairy producers the option of opting out of the program for 2018.

To opt out, a producer should not sign up during the annual registration period. By opting out, a producer would not receive any MPP-Dairy benefits if payments are triggered for 2018. Full details will be included in a subsequent Federal Register Notice.  The decision would be for 2018 only and is not retroactive.

The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs — falls below the coverage level selected by the producer.

MPP-Dairy gives participating dairy producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best suited for their operation. Enrollment ends on Dec. 15, 2017, for coverage in calendar year 2018. Participating farmers will remain in the program through Dec. 31, 2018, and pay a minimum $100 administrative fee for 2018 coverage. Producers have the option of selecting a different coverage level from the previous coverage year during open enrollment.

Dairy operations enrolling in the program must meet conservation compliance provisions and cannot participate in the Livestock Gross Margin Dairy Insurance Program. Producers can mail the appropriate form to the producer’s administrative county FSA office, along with applicable fees, without necessitating a trip to the local FSA office. If electing higher coverage for 2018, dairy producers can either pay the premium in full at the time of enrollment or pay 100 percent of the premium by Sept. 1, 2018. Premium fees may be paid directly to FSA or producers can work with their milk handlers to remit premiums on their behalf.

USDA has a Margin Protection Program web tool to help producers determine the level of coverage under the MPP-Dairy that will provide them with the strongest safety net under a variety of conditions. The online resource allows dairy farmers to quickly and easily combine unique operation data and other key variables to calculate their coverage needs based on price projections. Producers can also review historical data or estimate future coverage based on data projections. The secure site can be accessed via computer, Smartphone, tablet or any other platform, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more information, visit FSA online or stop by a local FSA office to learn more about the MPP-Dairy.

Maine Farms for the Future Request for Proposals

Looking for a way to change your dairy farm and improve your business management?
Maine Farms for the Future may be for you!

A copy of the Request For Proposal document for Maine Farms for the Future Program can be downloaded. Also, view Question & Answer Summary and all amendments related to this RFP, at Maine’s Request for Proposals website.

Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources
RFP# 201709156

Maine Farms for the Future Program, Round 17: Phase 1 – Business Plan Development (2017-2019) with potential Phase 2 – Investment Support in 2019

The State of Maine, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, is required to offer grants for business plan development (Phase 1) and investment support (Phase 2) as authorized in the Maine Farms for the Future Program (Title7, MRS Chapter 10-B).

A Bidders Conference will be held on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 from 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. at Conference Room # 118 located in the Marquardt Building, 32 Blossom Ln in Augusta with a public entrance at Door D7.

Proposals must be submitted to the State of Maine Division of Purchases, located at the Burton M. Cross Office Building, 111 Sewall St – 4th Floor in Augusta.  Proposals must be submitted by 4:00 pm, local time, on Tuesday, October 17, when they will be opened.  Proposals not received at the Division of Purchases’ aforementioned address by the aforementioned deadline will not be considered for contract award.

Weather Resources You May Find Interesting

By Rick Kersbergen

After posting about the lack of Growing Degree Days (GDD) a few days ago, we have experienced some much-needed warm weather. Many of you have asked where to get GDD data for your area. I access the Climate Smart Farming website to get very localized data.

For example, here is the chart for central Maine as of 9-20-17.

Screenshot of CSF Growing Degree Day Calculator

Some other weather resources you may be interested in learning about are available through the Gulf of Maine Gulf of Maine Region Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook website. If you are interested, read the most recent issue of Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook for the Gulf of Maine Region.

2017 Maine Eastern States Dairy Team Results

On September 14-17, 2017, sixteen 4-H youth and their project animals traveled to West Springfield, MA to represent Maine at the Eastern States Exposition. They competed against more than 150 youth from all over New England in a variety of dairy competitions.

In the first competition, the Dairy Knowledge Exam, Gabbie Guillette took third place and Keltan Tanguay was sixth in the Senior Division (Ages 15-18). While Susannah Huettner took second place in the Junior Division (Ages 12-15).

The Maine Quiz Bowl Team consisting of Alyvia Caruso, Gabbie Guillemette, Calli-Ann Leach and Keltan Tanguay took third place overall. Keltan Tanguay finished third, Gabbie Guillemete finished sixth and Calli-Ann Leach finished tenth in the individual scoring. The quiz bowl team was coached by Connie Wood.

The Maine Clipping Team consisting of Alexia Dumont, Mackensie Schofield and Keltan Tanguay finished second.

In the Dairy Judging, the Maine Team of Alyvia Caruso, Emma Hawkes, Calli-Ann Leach and Jaymee Rankin, took second place in Guernseys, third in Jerseys and third in Milking Shorthorns, with a third place overall. In the individual competition, Calli-Ann Leach finished third in Ayrshires, second in the Shorthorns and sixth overall, while Jaymee Rankin placed second in Guernseys and seventh overall. The team was coached by Jessyca Rankin.

In the Grilled Cheese Sandwich Competition, the team of Alyvia Caruso, Lydia Schofield and Ruben Schofield finished first in the Traditional Category with their Monterey Jack with Pesto sandwich and finished third in the Non-Traditional Category with their wild blueberry and sharp cheddar on sour dough sandwich. The team’s traditional sandwich was also best sandwich of the competition. The team was coached by Ann Caruso.

Maine Grilled Cheese Team of Lydia Schofield, Alyvia Caruso and Ruben Schofield

Maine Grilled Cheese Team of Lydia Schofield, Alyvia Caruso and Ruben Schofield

Results of the Cattle Quality Classes were as follows. In the Ayrshire breed, class winners included Abigail Clock with her Fall Calf, M-R Primes Viv, Megan Caruso with her Winter Yearling, Family-AF-AYR Lucky Martha, Susannah Huettner with her Fall Yearling, Glen-Farm Valorous Most and Keltan Tanguay with his four year-old cow, Blue-Spruce Medalist Brooke, Megan’s yearling was named Reserve Junior Champion and Keltan’s cow was named Reserve Senior Champion of the breed.

In the Guernseys, Kiley Clock and her Summer Yearling, Pinedust Colton Forest finished first and was named Junior Champion and Reserve Grand Champion.

In the Holsteins, Reeve Twitchell and his Fall Calf, Brigeen Brash Paddy finished first and was named Junior Champion and Reserve Grand Champion.

In the Jerseys, class winners included, Mackensie Schofield’s Winter Calf, Happy Acres FP Mistletoe and Calli-Ann Leach’s Winter Yearling, Tierneys Venom Portia.

In the State Herd Competition, the Maine cattle were first in Ayrshires, second in Guernseys and third in Jerseys.

In the Fitting and Showmanship competition, Alyvia Caruso placed first in her age group and was named Reserve Champion in the Junior Division.

The dairy team would like to thank Stephanie Smith, the chair of the dairy 4-H committee for her leadership, and all of the volunteers, coaches, chaperones, contributors and parents who gave freely of their time and resources to make this year successful. 4-H is an educational youth program of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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Cows and Crops — May 2017

Monday, May 22nd, 2017
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In this issue:

Upcoming Events

Cowabunga 5K — June 25, 2017

On Sunday, June 25, 2017, the MDACF will be partnering with the Maine Dairy Promotion Board to host the inaugural Cowabunga 5K and Family Dairy Day in Portland, ME. The event will feature a 5K run/walk, local farmers, live calves, educational demonstrations, local and state dairy businesses and organizations, and dairy products for attendees.  Proceeds will be donated to the Howard C. Reiche Community School’s food pantry, which operates through the summer, as part of the Milk2MyPlate program. If you have any questions about the event, contact Jami Badershall at the Maine Dairy Promotion Board,

Cowabunga promo poster

For Producers Considering No-Till corn production this year:

Here is a link to a fact sheet that I helped produce with some co-workers in Massachusetts that sets the stage for transitioning your corn crop into a no-till system.

Many farmers in Maine have transitioned to no-till corn and using cover crops to develop and improve their crop rotations, forage quality and profitability. The system also helps improve soil conditions for a dynamic and sustainable system of forage production.

If you want to try no-till this year, please let me know and I can help guide you through the transition.

Rick (207.342.59871;

UMaine Students Compete in North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge

Four students from the University of Maine competed in the 16th Annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge® (NAIDC) held March 30 – April 1, 2017. Visalia, CA was home base for the event which included 230 students from 37 colleges across the U.S. and Canada.

Dairy Challenge is a unique, real-world experience where students work as a team and apply their college coursework to evaluate and provide solutions for an operating dairy farm. Seven California dairies participated in this event. For the UMaine students, this was their first opportunity to set foot on a large western dairy farm milking approximately 6,000 cows. The sheer size of the operation provided an extra challenge for the Maine students.

Teams were evaluated on the quality and accuracy of their presentations, the identification of management opportunities and their recommendations to improve animal care and management. Team presentations were evaluated by a panel of five judges, including dairy producers, veterinarians, finance specialists and other agribusiness personnel. In addition to the competition, the students also had the opportunity to hear about the latest research and talk about career opportunities with industry professionals.

The University of Maine team of seniors from the School of Food and Agriculture consisted of Alexa Grissinger, Kambrea Atkinson, Dominic Barra and Dakota Stewart. Dr. David Marcinkowski coached the team. Alexa and Dominic will be attending veterinary school in the Fall while Kambrea and Dakota will pursue careers in agribusiness.

Team Lowr Res

2017 University of Maine Dairy Challenge Team. (L to R) Alexa Grissinger, Dominic Barra, Kambrea Atkinson, Dakota Stewart.

Reproduction Notes from California

By David Marcinkowski

As you can see from the article above, I had the opportunity to visit the dairy capital of the US, Tulare County, CA with the University of Maine Dairy Challenge Team. Tulare County leads the nation in milk production and is home to 285 dairy farms and more than 500,000 dairy cows. The recent drought in California, combine with low milk prices, has caused a lot of stress on these farms. However, when we were there, the surge in spring rains had turned everything green, filled reservoirs, and created a positive attitude among the dairy producers. While there had the opportunity to visit a couple large dairy farms and talked to a number of producers, veterinarians and agribusiness consultants about some of the management practices being employed on local farms.

Improving Reproduction Efficiency

Estrus detection on dairies is always a problem whether we’re talking about California or Maine. Add 100 degree temperatures in the summer time and getting cows bred in CA can be very difficult. Just like here, many CA farms have resorted to whole herd synchronization programs such as Target Breeding or Presynch.   However it seems that many of the CA dairies are now using the Double Ovsynch protocol (DO). The DO protocol is shown below, and involves four injections of GnRH and two of prostaglandins.

Research has shown that DO can yield conception rates 5-10% higher than Presynch. This increase is especially true in first lactation animals. Just remember to consult with your veterinarian before starting or modifying any synchronization protocol.

Screenshot of Double Ovsynch calendar

California dairies experience a significant slump in conception rates due to the summer heat. One option producers are using to counteract this slump is breeding their herds with fresh, chilled, semen. One local bull stud is providing farms with fresh semen that is collected and distributed the same day. The fresh semen, when stored properly, will remain viable for 1-2 days. Frozen semen is convenient, but the freezing/thawing process kills a significant percentage of the cells. The company selling this product is claiming an 8-10% increase in conception rate with this product, however this claim has yet to be confirmed.

We also noticed that several CA dairies are using In vitro fertilization or IVF to generate embryos. It has been known for some time that pregnancy rates resulting from embryo transfers are much less susceptible to the summer heat than pregnancy rates from standard AI. These farmers are having eggs collected from their best cows and heifers, having them fertilized with sexed semen in a petri dish and then frozen for later implantation. The embryos generated from IVF are then implanted into cows in the hot summer months.  This results in significantly higher pregnancy rates and more constant calving rates throughout the year. By using the best cows, genetic improvement is also accelerated.

The average herd size in Tulare county is 1920 cows. As a result, the herdspeople on these dairies are quite experienced and handle many of the health issues themselves. The role of the veterinarian on these farms has changed significantly. The veterinarians act more as health consultants responsible for developing SOP’s, training farm staff and monitoring herd performance. They only see the tough cases that farm staff can’t handle. Routine procedures like pregnancy diagnoses are done by farm staff or alternate methods. A number of the farms were pregnancy testing cows using milk and/or blood. These tests help producers to identify open cows as early as 28 days and help reduce time to reinsemination.

Maximizing Genetics

While we were at the Dairy Challenge we had the opportunity to listen to several excellent presentations. One presentation by Simon Vander Woude, a dairy producer from Merced, was particularly interesting. Simon talked about his use of genomic testing to maximize genetic improvement. Genomics enables a producer to accurately identify the genetic potential of an animal. However simply knowing which animals are good or bad is not enough. Using that genomic information in a management system to get more offspring from the top animals is key to maximizing genetic improvement.

Van Woude Dairy genomically tests all heifer calves. The very elite heifers and cows are identified as IVF candidates and used to produce embryos when they grow large enough. These elite embryos are transferred into the heifers and cows with below average genetics. Animals with above average genetics are bred using sexed to produce heifer calves with above average genetics. The bottom portion of the herd genetically is bred to beef semen producing crossbred beef calves that bring a bonus as feeder calves.

More information on the Van Wouda Dairy breeding program can be found in a short YouTube video.

Northeastern Region Annual Milk Production Report

By Bob Parsons, UVM

Highlights: Milk up 1.8% in March, with cow numbers up by 57,000 from last year. All major states up in milk except California and Idaho, Texas and New Mexico booming as compared to last year, Vermont up 0.9%, Class III milk prices at $15-$16 level for next 9 months. Crop prices down a bit, MPP Margins for rest of year above insurable levels of $8 but up just a bit from last month. See MPP Expectations in Table at end of Email).  

March Report:
Milk production in March was up 1.8% following a 2.3% increase in February.  Production per cow was up 18 lbs per cow per month from last year. Cow numbers in the US in March was 9.57 million, up 57,000 from last year.

Production across the US:

California was down 2.9%
Idaho was down 1.0%
New Mexico was up 9.0%
Texas was up 16.4%

Upper Mid-West and Northeast:
Minnesota was up 1.9%
Wisconsin was up  1.5%
Michigan was up 3.5%
Pennsylvania was up 3.0%
New York was up 3.6%

In Vermont milk was up 0.9% to 235 million lbs., milk was up 40 lbs. to 1820 lbs. per cow per month, and cows numbered 129,000, down from 131,000 a year ago.

Milk Prices: Class III and Class IV prices are down a bit since last month.  Class III prices look to remain at $15 to $16 range with no view of $17 in the next year.  Class IV prices are running $1 or more below Class III prices.  Unless exports, milk powder, or butter takes a jump, cheese will be driving dairy prices for the next 9 months. Margins look think through the coming year with no real reprieve from low prices.

CME Prices April 21, 2017
Class III Class IV
April $15.45 $13.95
May $15.62 $14.07
June $15.82  $14.46
July $16.26 $14.45
August  $16.62  $14.69
September  $16.72  $15.00
October $16.61  $15.19
November  $16.56  $15.26
December $16.45 $15.30

Feed Prices: Prices for corn are down about 5 cents, soybeans down 40 cents, and meal down about $10.  The soybean yield has been good coming out of South America. Planting intentions indicate soybeans my surpass corn acreage this year. Grain farmers are concerned about Trump moves on trade as any moves could lead to decreased US exports, and lower prices.  Lower prices are bad for grain farmers but good for dairy farmers. Lower prices should increase margins over feed costs.

CME Prices April 21, 2017
Corn Soy Meal
May 17 $3.56 $9.51 $310
September 17 $3.70 $9.61  $316
December 17 $3.81  $9.67  $316

Return over Feed Costs for MPP program: The return over feed costs for March-April is expected at $9.06.  The estimated return over feed costs for the next 12 months drops to $8.76 in May-June and rises to $10.11 for Nov-Dec.  From just 3 months ago, the Expected Returns were all above $10 and now we have a chance to see it drop below $7.50 Let’s hope that the decision of most farmers not to sign up for anything higher than the $4 level remains the right decision for the year. Insurance can be a strange tool, you hope never to use it but glad it’s there if you need it.

* For the table below, the 8% in the May-June 2017 column and < $8.00 row means there is an 8% expected chance at this time that the return over feed costs will drop below $8.00 per cwt for May-June period. The expected return over feed costs for May-June 2017 is $8.76 per cwt, 8 cents higher than last month.

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Cows and Crops – April 2017

Thursday, April 27th, 2017
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In this issue:

Upcoming Events

No-till Tuesday Webinars

Some of you may have tuned in to these, but in case you missed it, here is a link to the recorded webinars. John Jemison and I did the most recent one focused on no-till soils.

For those of you considering switching to no-till, the next webinar on Tuesday, May 2 will feature Jeff Sanders discussing no-till equipment and set-up. Register for the webinar.

Colostrum — Not Just Antibodies Anymore

By David Marcinkowski

We have known for a long time about the importance of giving a calf colostrum ASAP after it’s born so it gains adequate antibody protection from diseases in early life.  However recent research indicates that there may be a whole host of other reasons why colostrum is important.

Gold Standards of Colostrum Management

First let’s review the current recommendations for colostrum management. In 2016 the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) published their “Gold Standards” for colostrum management.

The following are their recommendations to maximize calf immunity:

Colostrum Quality

  • Harvesting procedures should result in clean, wholesome colostrum that is free of infectious pathogens and low in bacteria.
  • Colostrum should be free of blood, debris and mastitis
  • Colostrum should be disease-free
  • Test for quality with a colostrum tester or IgG test
  • Target bacteria count (also known as standard plate count) is <100,000 cfu/ml
  • In cases where clean, high-quality maternal colostrum is unavailable, feed commercial colostrum replacer

Quantity and Timing

  • First-feeding of colostrum should equal 10% of body weight and be fed in the first 2 hours of life. For example, a 90-lb. calf should receive 4 quarts of colostrum.

Evaluation of Colostrum Management

  • Target immunity level of animals at 2 to 7 days of age is:
    • a total blood protein level > 5.2 g/dL colostrum-fed calves; or
    • a serum IgG of >10.0 g/L
  • Do calves meet the standards for mortality, morbidity and growth found in Table 1.?

Table 1. Mortality, Morbidity and Growth Standards for Dairy Calves

Age of Calf
Death Loss
Percent Treated for Scours Percent Treated for Pneumonia Growth Rate
1 – 60 <5% <25% <10% Double Birthweight by 60 days
61 – 120 <2% <2% <15% 2.2*
121 – 180 <1% <1% <2% 2.0*

*Growth rate less for Jersey calves

The DCHA standards are excellent guidelines that all dairy farms should strive for, however we know from numerous studies and surveys that a significant number of farms fail to achieve some of these standards.

The 2014 NAHMS Dairy Survey of farms from across the US found that only 42% of Holstein calves received the required 4 quarts of colostrum at the first feeding. They also found that only 15.5% of farms routinely tested colostrum for quality and 6.2% of farms routinely monitored serum protein levels in calves to assess passive transfer of antibodies. The 2007 survey found 19.2% of calves tested had insufficient blood antibody levels to provide adequate immunity from disease.

You’ll notice the standards also include a maximum bacteria count of 100,000 /ml for colostrum as well. Colostrum is an excellent medium for bacterial growth. Bacterial populations in colostrum kept at room temperature double every 20-30 minutes. In a 2007 survey of Pennsylvania herds the average bacteria count in the colostrum fed to calves was nearly 1 million cfu/mL. This was 10 times higher than the DCHA standard. There findings indicate the need for better handling and cooling of the colostrum on farms to reduced bacterial growth.

Nutritional Boost

Up until now we have talked about colostrum as it affects the immunity of the calf, however colostrum is also packed with nutrients that give the newborn calf a boost.

Table 2. Colostrum Composition

Item Milking Milk
1 2 3
Specific Gravity 1.056 1.040 1.035 1.032
Solids % 23.9 17.9 14.1 12.9
Protein % 14.0 8.4 5.1 3.1
Casein % 4.8 4.3 3.8 2.5
IgG, 48.0 25.0 15.0 0.6
Fat % 6.7 5.4 3.9 3.7
Lactose % 2.7 3.9 4.4 5.0
Vitamin A ug/L 2950 1900 1130 340

From Foley and Otterby, 1978

As you can see from Table 2, colostrum contains four times more protein, and nearly twice as much solids and fat as whole milk. Since fat contains much more energy than either carbohydrates or proteins, the higher fat content of colostrum gives the calf more available energy to deal with the stresses of early life. Much of the protein in that first colostrum is in the form of antibodies, however colostrum also contains higher levels of other milk proteins. These easily digested milk proteins may give the calf’s body a large dose of amino acids that the calf can quickly utilize to live and grow. Studies have shown that calves that continue to receive colostrum for several days after birth grow faster than calves that received either transition milk or whole milk.

Other Things in Colostrum

It is estimated that milk and colostrum is a combination of more than 100,000 different chemical substances. Some are directly transferred from the cow’s blood stream while others are manufactured by the milk producing cells in the udder. Colostrum contains higher levels of proteins, immunoglobulins, peptides, hormones, growth factors, enzymes, minerals and vitamins as well as a whole host of other bioactive compounds. Some of the major components have been studied quite closely while some of the smaller components, scientists are just starting to learn a little about.

We do know that colostrum has major impacts on the small intestines. There is an increase in the size, protein synthesis and the activity of certain enzymes in the intestines that does not occur if animals are given milk rather than colostrum. This is probably due to the effect a number of the hormones and growth factors have on the GI tract which then improve the calf’s ability to absorb nutrients from consumed feed and improve the feed efficiency. This seems particularly true of glucose, which is higher in blood of colostrum fed calves. This glucose, derived mainly from the lactose in the milk or milk replacers, puts the calf in a higher energy state enabling them to better withstand cold temperatures and stresses.

These metabolic changes due to colostrum feeding certainly have a positive effect on the growth of the calf for the first few months of life, however some researchers believe that the effects are much longer than that. Several studies have shown that calves receiving a high plane of nutrition in the first two months of age, produced 1,000 to 3,000 lbs. more milk in first lactation. Colostrum may play an important role in the ability of calves to achieve this higher plane of nutrition. Not everyone in the research community acknowledges these long term effects, however even the short term effects of colostrum feeding are more than enough justification for dairy producers to follow the DCHA gold standards of colostrum management.

4-H Dairy Judging Contest Results

On April 8th, 2017, 4-H Youth from around the state gathered for the State 4-H Dairy Judging Contest. Jersey judging started in the morning at the Lowell Family Farm, owned and operated by Dana and Seri Lowell’s in Buckfield. The group then travel to Pineland Farms Inc. for the judging of Holsteins and oral reasons. Contestants judged 6 classes of cattle with two sets of oral reasons. In the Cloverbud competition, ages 8 and under, the winner was Katarina Leach from Arundel. In the Junior competition, the winner was Camryn Caruso from Gorham. And Senior competition was won by Calli-Ann Leach from Arundel. In addition to Calli-Ann, the team which will represent Maine at the Big E will include Alyvia Caruso of Gorham, Emma Hawkes of  Westbrook and Jaymee Rankin of  Cornish. Thank you to the Lowell’s and Pineland for allowing the youth to judge their cattle. Congratulations to all the winners and best of luck at the Big E!

Dairy Situation and Outlook, April 20, 2017

By Bob Cropp, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension

Download the PDF.

Northeast Milk Price Forecasts, 2016‐2017

By Bob Wellington, Agrimark Inc., April 17, 2017

Download the PDF.

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Cows and Crops – March 2017

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017
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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___

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Cows and Crops – November 2016

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
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In this issue:

Alternative Summer Annuals

Is there something other than corn silage?

Rick Kersbergen

For many of you this year’s drought severely impacted your forage yields of both perennial crops as well as your corn silage yields. While this year may have been an aberration, it is always a good idea to plan try and diversify your forage resources to insure against poor growing conditions.

Many of you have started growing cover crops after your corn comes off in the fall and it makes me smile to see green fields on October. Not only are you protecting from erosion, capturing nutrients and saving on next year’s fertilizer bill, but you are also growing a crop you could potentially harvest next May. The benefits of cover cropping go beyond that as well, by improving soil health and soil moisture management.

This past summer, we grew some other warm season annuals at Maine Farm days to demonstrate some alternatives. These included BMR Sorghum Sudan, BMR forage Sorghum and BMR Pearl Millet. All these crops have the potential to produce well under dry and hot conditions, and yield a very digestible crop for making milk, as they contain the BMR gene to improve digestibility. Sorghum for silage is not new….it has been around for years.

Kersbergen with sorghumMany of you have done BMR Sorghum Sudan grass in the past (I heard the moans when you read this…) and have cut it several times during the season. The issue has always been…how can you dry such a wet crop so it can be chopped or baled for fermentation. Recently, some work has been done by letting the crop mature, and doing a one-harvest system in the fall. This would require a “Kemper” type head to chop the crop directly. Our research this summer yielded about 30 tons of 22% dry matter feed in mid September. As you can see in the picture, it was quite tall.

The other benefit of this crop is that no herbicides were used, making it a cheaper crop to grow and a great alternative for organic producers.

sorghumThe other crop that we grew (sown in early June) was BMR Forage Sorghum. This is another warm season crop. We grew two types…the normal BMR forage Sorghum and a Dwarf BMR brachytic type. The dwarf brachytic is shorter, but the internodes (distances between leaves) is much less, so the plant has a high leaf to stem ratio. We tried growing this crop similar to corn silage…in 30 inch rows and sown at about 5-7 pounds per acre. We also compared this to a normal BMR forage sorghum that was sown in narrow rows and at a rate of about 25 pounds per acre. In the picture below, you can see the difference in the two crops. As you can see, the dwarf variety (on the left) lived up to its name; a section of the test plot was harvested in September and yielded about 17 tons per acre of 24% dry matter feed; another section of the test plot was harvested in October and yielded 18 tons of 30.1% dry matter forage that tested at 176 relative feed value (RFV). This could be directly chopped just like corn. The regular forage sorghum yielded higher, but again would need a “Kemper” type head on your chopper. It would be difficult to mow that crop as it is about 9 ft tall at a fall harvest.

Some cautions….the dwarf variety is slow to germinate and get started, so it has some issues with weeds if you don’t use a herbicide. The regular BMR forage sorghum grown in narrow rows is an excellent competitor and would be suited for organic production.

One organic producer in Maine grew about 90 acres of BMR forage sorghum this year as an alternative to corn silage. The crop was sown in early July and harvested in late September. Since it was sown in July, it was not as tall as the crop we grew and he was able to use his mower to harvest the crop and let it wilt in the field. Yields were high (> 30 tons per acre of 23% dry matter).

I will be talking about these crops as alternatives this winter at growers meetings. If you have questions and want to talk more about specifics and feed analysis, please give me a call or send me an email.  207-342-5971

Corn Silage Trials 2016

Misty Meadows Farm

Caragh Fitzgerald and Rick Kersbergen

Many of you will be ordering your corn seed in the next few weeks for 2017, as dealers like to get their orders in before the holiday season. Normally, my co-worker Caragh Fitzgerald and I would be sending out the results of the corn silage variety trial to help you make your decisions. Unfortunately, this year we have a major problem. Many of the varieties suffered some early season herbicide injury. This impacted the certain varieties more than others, and we felt uncomfortable providing the data, since the injury was not consistent. We will be providing the data to the individual dealers for their submissions.

There were some interesting findings that reflect this year’s growing season as well as some quality parameters that you should discuss with whoever sells you seed! For the first time since we have been doing these trials, the dry matter of the corn at harvest (before a frost) was higher than the recommended level of 35% Dry matter. Obviously the dry summer was partially responsible, but we also have one of our highest Growing Degree summers we have ever experienced, allowing many of the varieties to mature.

Some results of note:

Average “wet” yield per acre (38.9% DM): 18.1 tons/acre

Average yield corrected to 35% DM: 23.4 tons/acre

As you compare varieties that you are considering for next year, the importance of quality along with yield should be part of the discussion. When you look at your forage analysis, you should pay close attention to the analysis that predicts the milk yield per ton of dry matter…because the variation between hybrids is huge and potential milk is what you are after…not just yield! We saw a big difference between hybrids, and when you add in yield, you can calculate milk per acre. Our results below show just how big a difference that can make.

Average Milk /ton DM: 3310lbs (High of 3670 to a low of 2680)

Average milk per acre: 23,253lbs (High of 30,594 to a low of 16,724)

The difference between the highest and lowest milk per acre variety would mean a difference in potential income of about $2,500 per acre in milk at $18/cwt!

Make sure you ask about quality when you choose your hybrids! Quality counts!

Maine Sign-up for Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program deadline Extended to Nov. 18

BANGOR, Maine — The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the application deadline extension date for the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA).  The Fiscal Year 2017 application deadline for AMA has been extended to Nov. 18, 2016.

Agricultural producers are encouraged to sign up now for consideration in statewide funding pools for the AMA program, which assists them in voluntarily addressing issues such as water management and water quality. Eligible practices include irrigation systems and irrigation water supply wells. For 2017, NRCS will also continue to offer an opportunity for funding High Tunnel Systems through AMA.

There is a continuous, year-round sign-up for the program, but applications submitted by the deadline mentioned above will be considered for funding in Fiscal Year 2017.  Proposals submitted after that date will be held for the next period of funding consideration.

“Participation in the Agricultural Management Assistance program is completely voluntary and supports agricultural production and environmental quality in Maine,” said NRCS-Maine State Conservationist Juan Hernandez. “The deadline is approaching quickly, so we encourage you to contact your local USDA Service Center as soon as possible.”

For more information on AMA, please contact your local NRCS Service Center. Locations and contact information can be found on the Maine NRCS website, along with more information about the programs and services NRCS provides.


How Much Milk Will Your Forage Support?

By Gary Anderson

Last month I looked at how to determine how much forage inventory you need to support your cows through the coming year. I have talked with people who are searching for feed and some have been looking in the Midwest. The quality of the feed available there is excellent, the quantity limited and the transportation costs can be high. Costs I have seen are $3 per loaded mile. So a truck that is loaded to maximum weight carrying baleage will have a different cost per lb of dry matter than the same truck loaded with high quality hay.  The wetter baleage will increase the cost per lb of dry matter delivered. The Midwest and upper Midwest had above average moisture this year so forage available from those regions can be very high quality.

This month I want to look at how forage quality impacts your purchased grain costs. So, last month you figured how much forage you needed and did an inventory of the feeds on hand. If you were short of feed on hand, I hope that you have secured enough feed to get you through until fresh feed is available next year. Based on your inventory, size of your silos, and animal needs you have a good idea of how much of each forage you can/have to feed each day to keep feed fresh and not spoil.

Typically, each farm will put together a base forage ration that is then customized to each group of cows/cow being fed. The ratio of feeds in that base ration usually are based on the amount of feed on hand and how much you can/have to feed to keep feed fresh.  A typical ration in Maine is 50% corn silage and 50% grass or legume silage. More on this later.

If I look at the requirements for a high producing dairy cow, I can get an idea of the ratio of forages I need to balance a ration effectively. If I look at a Holstein cow weighing 1400 lbs and producing 80 lbs of 3.8% fat milk, I can generate some nutrient requirements. The most important of these is dry matter intake; the higher the intake we can get, the more nutrients that are eaten to support maintenance, growth and production. Second among the nutrients is energy and I view this as the limiting nutrient for production. Energy is determined by the fiber content and so fiber is equally important in putting together an optimum ration. There are several different types of fiber to evaluate when balancing a ration and that is beyond this article so I am going to concentrate on dry matter intake and energy.

Cows have a requirement for so many megacalories of energy and so many grams of protein.  Every computer program calculates requirements from a prediction equation and numbers can vary from one program to another.  If I go to a simple prediction, let’s say that the dry matter intake of the cow in the paragraph above is 50 lbs and the energy requirement for maintenance, growth and production is 36.2 Mcals Net Energy Lactation.

If I had average corn silage (.72 mcal NEl/lb) and low quality mostly grass silage (.52 mcal NEl/lb) with enough inventory to feed a 50:50 ratio of the two forages on a dry matter basis, the calculated energy density of that mix would be .62 mcal NEl/lb.  If you can get your forage base to be in the 12-14% protein range and the mcal NEl/lb over .65, you can make some nice rations maximizing forage and minimizing purchased feed cost.  We can use Pearson Square to determine the forage:grain ratio that will give us a ballpark figure to see if we can put together a healthy ration.

We start by calculating the energy that is required in the ration by taking the mcal energy required (36.2 mcal NEl) divided by the 50 lbs of dry matter intake giving us an energy density of .73 mcal NEl/lb dry matter.  We can assume that the energy of a grain mix is .84 mcal NEl/lb.  We can set up Pearson Square like the diagram below. We subtract the numbers on the diagonals and then look at the percentages of the total (ie. .84 – .73 = .11 and .62 – .73 =.11 The subtraction is always positive).  Next add .11 and .11 to equal .22;  .11/.22 = .50 or 50% forage and the grain is the remainder  or 100 minus 50 or 50%.  So mixing 50% of the ration as forage and 50% as grain will give us the energy density we desire.  The question is … Is this a healthy ration?  Using thumbrules, we would like to feed no less than 40% forage so this ration passes that test.  This ration would end up feeding about 28 lbs of grain for 80 lbs of milk or 1 lb of grain to 2.85 lbs of milk.  If energy of forages were higher or we used a different ratio of forages, we may be able to put together a ration with less grain.

Illustration showing desired energy of diet

The actual ration can be quickly formulated by your nutritionist using their computer, but I wanted to give you some background in some of the calculations and evaluation factors in determining how forage quality impacts your bottom line.  While I used a mix of high energy corn silage with the grass silage in the first example, if you only had the grass silage, Pearson Square (see diagram below) would show that you would need to feed 34% forage and 66% grain to get the energy required.  This ratio violates our thumbrule above, but may still work if the ration meets fiber requirements.  In any event, the ration with the lower quality forage is much more expensive.

Illustration showing desired energy of diet

Balancing the complete ration is more complex that I have explained here.  This is just a back of the envelope calculation to plan how your forage resources can be best used.  A nutritionist will work to maximize forage use, reduce feed costs and monitor all of the nutrients provided with requirements.  They will also monitor the ration to make sure that you do not exceed gut fill ensuring that cows can eat the ration formulated.  Take some time to evaluate your forage inventory and analyses (ie. Quality and quantity) to plan for the year ahead and get the appropriate feedstuffs to the right cows.

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Cows and Crops — October 2016

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
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Cows and Crops — October 2016

In This Issue

2016 Eastern States Exhibition 4-H Dairy Competitions and Show Results

Dave Marcinkowski, Dairy Specialist

Sixteen 4-H dairy youth, and their project animals, represented the State of Maine at the Eastern States Exhibition in Springfield, MA. They did a terrific job competing in a number of dairy events, The highlight of the weekend was a visit from Governor LePage and Commissioner Whitcomb, who stop by the barn to congratulate the Maine Team. Some of the top results were as follows:

The Clipping Team of Kaicey Conant, Keltan Tanguay and Mackensie Schofield placed first in their competition by doing the best job of preparing their heifer with only 1 hour of prep time.

The Quiz Bowl Team of Keltan Tanguay, Sadee Meheuren, Megan Caruso and Alivia Stanley placed third, while Sadee placed fifth in the individual competition.

The Grilled Cheese Team of Jaymee Rankin, Hayley Grant and Ruben Schofield placed third overall in both the Traditional and Creative Grilled Cheese Categories. Their third place entry in the Creative Category was their Lobster and Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

In the General Knowledge Exam the highest scoring senior for Maine was Sadee Meheuren who placed fourth overall.

In Dairy Judging, the team of Allison Merriman, MacKensie Schofield, CalliAnn Leach, Alivia Stanley and Ruth Huettner placed sixth overall, but were first in Guernsey breed.

In the Fitting and Showmanship, Mackensie Schofield placed first in the Senior Showmanship Group 1.

In the Quality Classes, first place Maine exhibitors and animals included:

  • Ayrshire Summer Yearling Heifer – Blue-Spruce Nemo Mazie-ET shown by Calli-Ann Leach
  • Ayrshire Three Year Old Cow – Vieux Village C Gem shown by Megan Caruso
  • Megan’s animal was also chosen Senior and Grand Champion of the Ayrshire Show.
  • The Maine State Herd in the Ayrshires placed second overall.
  • Holstein Winter Yearling Heifer – Conant-Acres Atwd Tango-ET shown by Kaicey Conant
  • Kaicey’s animal was also chosen Junior Champion of the Holstein Show
  • Jersey Spring Calf – Happy Acres Premier Qelia shown by Ruben Schofield Jr.
  • Jersey Spring Yearling Heifer – Baker Brook Vitality Freedom shown by Emma Hawkes
  • Jersey Winter Yearling Heifer – Springdale Ike Patsy shown by Johnathan Cliche
  • Jersey Aged Cow – RGH June Tuesday Morning-P shown by Ruth Huettner

The Maine State Herd in the Jerseys placed second overall

Congratulations to all the dairy competitors, coaches and chaperones for great year!

Farm Safety – UMaine Extension offers some free safety equipment

Richard Kersbergen, Extension Professor

Farm Safety –UMaine Extension offers some free safety equipment

Recent farm and equipment tragedies and accidents throughout the state have led to increased scrutiny of farm practices and safety equipment.  In other states, dairy farms have recently been examined and inspected by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for safety violations.

UMaine Cooperative Extension along with Bassett Hospital and the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health is offering several programs to help prevent accidents and fatalities from occurring on your farm! If you want to receive one of these, you will need to agree to install it properly! We have several sizes and lengths available.

Since PTO shaft entanglements are a major source of farm fatalities, we are offering a limited number of free PTO shaft universal replacement shields to farms who request them. Damaged or missing shields can easily lead to producers becoming entangled with either serious injuries or a fatality as a result. Proper shielding can help to prevent such a tragedy!

Another major source of accidents occurs with farm tractors and implements on the roads. With lower sun levels and shorter days, it is increasingly hard to see slow moving vehicle and tractors on the road. The familiar triangle that all of you have on new tractors and implements, often fades and gets broken. That Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign is critical to have posted on all implements, trailers and tractors going down the road.  As with the PTO replacement shields, UMaine Extension and Bassett hospital are offering limited free SMV signs for your equipment, with the agreement you will install and use them!

To participate in this equipment program, you will need to contact Rick Kersbergen at

Availability is limited.

We all know of farm families that have endured tragedies that could have been prevented. Don’t let you or your family be another part of those statistics we all see and read about.

Determining If You Will Have Enough Forage for the Coming Year

By Gary Anderson, Animal & BioScience Specialist

Now that forage harvesting is almost complete for the year, it is time to carefully evaluate how much forage you have on hand and compare it with how much you need to feed your herd. With the drought this summer, forage is at a premium now and will only get shorter as we go through the winter.

Good silage preservation is obtained when silos are filled quickly and packed to an appropriate density. Mike Hutgens, retired from University of Illinois, has some suggestions on silage quality. The rule of thumb for packing silage is to take the weight of your tractor and divide by 800; that gives you the number of tons per hour you can effectively pack. The target for silage density is to have over 18 lbs of forage dry matter per cubic foot (so if your silage was 33% dry matter, that would be a target of over 54 lbs (18/.33=54) of silage per cubic foot). If you can get a grab sample from the silo face, your density is less than 15 lbs forage dry matter per cubic foot. For legume/grass silage, your target pH is in the 4.3 to 4.7 range and for corn a little lower at 3.8 to 4.2. Studies with oxygen barrier coverings on silos have been shown to reduce dry matter losses by 50% in the top meter of silage.

One of the main questions I get from producers is — “How much forage will I need for the coming year?” To answer that question, I did some calculations. I looked at average production of 3.5% fat corrected milk by 1350 lb Holsteins and calculated rations using predicted dry matter intakes and balanced rations using a low (.51 Mcal), medium(.57 Mcal) and high energy (.63 Mcal) grass/legume hay. I ended up with the amounts of hay needed per month to feed cows of differing production levels. Remember, I used a prediction equation for feed intake and actual intake by your cows is always a better estimate. I made several assumptions on these sample rations and I maximized the use of forage in the ration. I only balanced on energy so other nutrients that are commonly used that may affect forage:grain ratios were not considered. My goal was to get some average inventory numbers for feed. I need to do these same calculations for Jerseys; their intake is not just a percentage of what Holsteins eat. If you are interested in Jersey numbers, please contact me.

With those caveats, here are my estimates of what 1350 lb Holstein cows at different levels of production will eat in tons of hay per month with forage of varying quality. You will notice that the higher the quality of the forage, the more cows will eat and the less grain you need to feed to balance a ration for their energy needs. The more cows eat, the more they produce; this is the basic physiology of bST. When I balance a ration, the first and second nutrients I look at are fiber and energy followed by dry matter. Then I look at protein and all the other nutrients.

Estimated Monthly intakes of Hay Equivalents (H.E.) for Holstein Cows Weighing 1350 lbs and Producing Various levels of 3.5% Fat Corrected Milk

Herd Production
lbs 3.5% FCM
Low Quality
.51 Mcal Tons H.E./month
Med Quality
.57 Mcal Tons H.E./month
High Quality
.63 Mcal Tons H.E./month
16000 .40 .47 .59
18000 .38 .45 .57
20000 .37 .43 .55
22000 .35 .41 .51
24000 .39 .48
26000 .36 .44
28000 .41

I did not include additional inventory for waste so please increase your total by 15-20%.
For levels of production above with no numbers, I did not feel that I could put together a healthy ration.

For example, if I had a 20,000 lb herd and had medium quality forage, I would need .43 tons of hay equivalent (89% dry matter) forage to feed. That would be .43 X 2000 or 860 lbs of hay equivalent per month per cow. I would multiply this times the number of milking cows times the number of months I needed to feed stored feed. If I was feeding 33% dry matter silage and no hay, I would divide the hay equivalent dry matter by the silage dry matter (89/33=2.7). I would then multiply the 860 lbs of hay equivalent X 2.7 to get the lbs of silage per cow per month (.43 X 2000=860 X 2.7 = 2322 lbs silage per cow per month).

I have not talked about young stock or dry cows. For youngstock, you can use .22 tons of hay equivalent per animal and for dry cows, .4 tons hay equivalent.

These data give you the basic information to estimate your forage needs. You then can compare your needs with your inventory of feed. Large round bales differ in size from farm to farm so you should get an average weight for the bales you have. Also determine the amount of spoilage on the outer edge of your bales to determine the amount of usable feed. If your round bales are 4 ft in diameter and there is 2 inches of spoilage, that is 16% of the total volume of the bale; if they are 6 ft in diameter, the same 2 inches of spoilage is just under 11% of the total volume of the bale. You can see the benefit of storing bales to minimize loss. Density of bunker silos can be calculated by several methods. One of the easiest is to use a corer of known volume to determine density at different locations on the silo fact (the density is greater at the bottom of the silo so many people take samples in an X across the face to get a representative sample). You can also mark the wall of the bunker and as you remove silage to feed, keep accurate records of the lbs removed using a mixer wagon with scales. After several days, calculate the volume of silage fed (length x wide x height = cubic feet fed) and calculate the lbs of feed per cubic foot. Doing a dry matter on silage from the mixer wagon that was representative of the whole face will let you calculate the dry matter per cubic foot. There are tables available that can give you an estimate of feed in your silo as well but actual measurements are best. Please note that I have not included dry matter loss from stored forage. Inflating your total needs by 15-20% should help you make sure you have enough forage this coming year.

Maine Hay Directory

Did you know that UMaine Extension manages a hay directory for buyers and sellers of hay and hay products? If you have hay or forage to sell, this listing may help you find buyers! If you are interested in posting your products or looking for feed to buy, check out the directory at the Maine Hay Directory.

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Cows and Crops — September 2016

Thursday, September 1st, 2016
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Cows and Crops — September 2016

In This Issue

Benchmarking Your Dairy’s Performance

Dave Marcinkowski, Dairy Specialist

Benchmarking is defined as comparing the performance of your individual farm to the average of a group of farms. Good managers are always comparing their farm to others, measuring progress to see if they are keeping up. Information from DHIA gives us an opportunity to compare various measures of production, reproduction, genetics and health.

Benchmarking is also useful in setting goals for your farm. Comparing your farm to the Maine average is useful, but who wants to be average? Many of the herd averages below are in some way correlated with milk production and farm profitability. Use these benchmarks to set goals for your farm. If you are below average, then average may be worth striving for. If you are at or above average, pick a number that is attainable in the next 5 years and work toward that goal. Pick just a couple of these measures that appear to be the biggest bottleneck on your operation a set a goal to improve them.

Let’s look at some of the 2015 Maine DHIA averages. One hundred and ten Maine herds make up these averages, but keep in mind these averages include all types of farms, large and small, organic and conventional, purebred and grade of all breeds. Although these numbers are from DHIA herds, with a few records and a little digging, many of the measures can be calculated in herds that are not on DHIA as well

Herd Averages

Measure Average Range
Herd Size 141 Cows 20 – 1013
Milk per Cow (Milking Cows) 60.7 lbs. 32 – 87.7
Rolling Herd Average 19,179 lbs. 9,222 – 29,652
Butterfat % 4.1% 3.2 – 5.7
Protein % 3.2 % 2.7 – 3.9
Peak Milk First Lactation Cows 68.2 lbs. 37 – 102
Peak Milk Second Lactation Cows 86.6 lbs. 39 – 121
Peak Milk 3+ Lactation Cows 93.8 Lbs. 56 – 134
Somatic Cell Count 206,000 75,000 – 806,000
Percent of Herd Low Somatic Cell Count 74.5% 34 – 94
Days in Milk at First Breeding 93.9 54 – 244
Heat Detection Rate 38.5% 10 – 79
Conception Rate 44.5% 19 – 96
Calving Interval (Months) 13.7 11.6 – 19.9
Annual Culling Rate 33.2% 15 – 96
Percent of Herd Died 4.4% 0 – 19
Average Age at First Calving (Months) 27.8 22 – 36

Milk Production

Milk per cow and rolling herd average are two measures of milk production critical to the overall profitability of the farm. They are also a good indicators of the general management on the farm. For a conventional herd we typically think that 70-75 lbs. per day is required for a farm to be profitable most of the time. This translates into a rolling herd average of about 21,350 – 22,875 lbs. per cow annually. For organic herds this number is a bit less, or about 55 – 60 lbs. per cow per day.

Milk Components

Butterfat and protein percentages are best evaluated by breed. The table below is a summary of milk production, fat and protein percentages for each breed of dairy cattle in the state of Maine.

Breed Milk Production (lbs.) Fat % Protein %
Ayrshire 17,703 3.84 3.07
Brown Swiss 15,055 3.81 3.18
Guernsey 16,094 4.42 3.27
Holstein 25,853 3.87 2.99
Jersey 20,052 4.83 3.54
Milking Shorthorn 17,272 3.66 3.05

Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, 2014 Maine Lactation Averages

The level of butterfat and protein in a herd is tricky to evaluate. There are a number of factors that affect milk components including stage of lactation, nutrition, genetics, mastitis and season. Higher components are desirable because the milk brings a higher price. Higher producing cows however, generally have lower fat and protein percentages in their milk. This is probably due to a dilution effect that occurs when more milk is produced. However, when the overall fat percentage of the herd is higher than the table values, the herd may not be producing milk at its full potential.

Somatic Cell Count (SCC)

The somatic cell count is an overall measure of udder health, mastitis and milk quality. It is also highly correlated with milk production. Lower somatic cell counts mean higher milk production. Reducing SCC’s is an opportunity for most Maine farms to increase milk production without milking more cows. Research shows a relationship between the herd SCC and the percent quarters infected in the herd. At a level of 200,000 cell/ml it is estimated that 6.2 % of the quarters are infected and at 400,000, cells/ml it is 12.8 %. Savings from reduced SCC’s can be substantial, considering each case of mastitis costs the farm about $200.


Reproduction is another key area. Good reproductive performance requires fewer days in milk at first breeding coupled with good heat detection and conception rates. Each day a cow is open over 90 days, costs the farm about $2.00. With an average calving interval of 13.7 months there is an opportunity on many farms to improve reproduction. A one-month reduction in the calving interval could return the farm an additional $60 for every cow in the herd.

Culling Rates

Culling rates can be difficult to evaluate. Since older animals have paid for their rearing costs and produce more milk, a lower culling rate is usually desirable. But a lot depends on whether the herd is maintaining a constant herd size, or increasing in size. Herds that are not growing in size typically have a culling rate equal to the rate of incoming replacement heifers, but growing herds need every milk cow they can keep in the herd. Culling also depends on the reasons why cows leave a particular herd. It is better if they leave for voluntary reasons because this gives the owner more options. However, when cows died or have to leave because they are not productive they have to be replaced. For most herds, the average culling rate of 33%, is probably about right.

Age at First Calving

Normally we would like to have heifers calve for the first time at 22-24 months of age. With an average age at first calving of 27.8 months there is considerable room for improvement on a number of Maine farms. The question for each herd is: Are the heifers just getting bred too late or are the growth rates not producing a heifer of adequate size to calve easily at 22 – 24 months? Regardless of the reason, maintaining heifers that are not producing milk is costly to the farm. Research indicates that each additional day a heifer remains uncalved in the herd, costs about $3. An additional month costs $90 per heifer.

These are just a few of the important benchmarks extracted from Maine DHIA herds. Compare your farm to these benchmarks and identify some areas for improvement.

Free Disposal of Banned, Unusable Pesticides Available to Maine Residents

This October, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will help Mainers dispose of banned or unusable pesticides. The Maine Obsolete Pesticides Collection Program is a free annual program for homeowners, family-owned farms and greenhouses. The program has collected almost 100 tons of pesticides since its inception.

Collections will occur at sites in Presque Isle, Bangor, Augusta and Portland. Participants must register by September 23, 2016.

Governor Paul R. LePage is urging Mainers to take advantage of this opportunity to protect the environment and save money by participating in this annual collection event. “This is an efficient, effective way to protect the environment and assist Mainers with the proper disposal of unusable pesticides at no expense to them. By combining the in-house resources of two state agencies, disposal costs are reduced to about $2 per pound, helping to minimize the cost to Maine taxpayers.”

“Homeowners and farmers inadvertently store banned pesticides or pesticides that have become unusable,” said Whitcomb. “They can be found in basements, garages, barns, and recently purchased homes. The Maine Obsolete Pesticides Collection Program helps prevent unwanted pesticides from being thrown in the trash or poured down the drain, potentially contaminating the land or drinking water.”

“Proper disposal of pesticides gives everyone the opportunity to make a positive impact on our environment and public health at no cost to Maine residents,” said Maine DEP Commissioner Paul Mercer. “The collection events are held at several locations across the State, and registering is free and easy.”

The collected chemicals go to out-of-state disposal facilities licensed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency where they are incinerated or reprocessed.

Registration by September 23, 2016, is mandatory—drop-ins are not permitted. To register, get details, and learn important information about the temporary storage and transportation of obsolete pesticides, go to the BPC website at , or call 207.287.2731.

The Maine Obsolete Pesticides Collection Program, jointly sponsored by the BPC and DEP, and paid for entirely through pesticide product registration fees, has kept more than 97 tons of pesticides out of the waste stream since its start in 1982.

To print a poster with information about the collection program, visit If possible, display this poster wherever appropriate.

For more information on the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, go to

For more information on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, go to

Do You Know Your Costs to Grow Feed?

Feed costs tend to be the largest expense on a dairy operation and managing those costs contributes to a dairy’s ability to be profitable.

These costs include purchased feed, but also the true costs to produce crops raised on the farm. Home-raised feeds vary in type, quality, and quantity, but more importantly the cost to produce a given feedstuff is unique to each individual operation. Planning and tracking the costs associated with home-raised feeds is an often overlooked aspect of the farm business that is integral to profitability.

Variations in soil fertility, available acreage, equipment, storage, and labor are some of the larger factors contributing to how much and of what quality feed is produced on the farm. Such diversity means each farm should create and evaluate cropping strategies to strike the right balance of quality and quantity. Knowing the costs associated with those feeds is an integral part of that cropping strategy. Specific steps in determining home-raised feed costs were outlined in a previous article, The Crop Costs Conversion (Beck, 2014). The article addressed determining crop inventories, estimating direct and overhead costs, and comparing to market values. It recommended that crop expenses such as seed, fertilizer, and chemical be identified with a specific crop. Keeping track of the crop acres each expense applies to will increase the accuracy of calculating the direct costs and planning future costs based on the previous year.

The following tables illustrate the planned costs by harvest yield group for three major commodities: corn silage, corn grain, and soybeans. This represents 104 farms that participated in the 2016 Penn State Extension “Know Your Numbers” program. This program is designed to assist producers with calculating their crop costs and estimating their annual breakeven costs for the dairy enterprise and whole farm. For 2016, the 100 farms producing corn silage had average estimates of $23.04/ton. According to the monthly Penn State Feed Price List authored by Virginia Ishler, Penn State Extension Dairy Specialist, the average market value for corn silage in the first half of 2016 was $48.48. It is important to note that this average is a statewide average, and values fluctuate between regions. Regardless of region, average home-raised costs tend to be lower than the market value.

Table 1. Projected Farm Costs of Corn Silage in Pennsylvania 2016 (100 farms).

  Harvested Yield per Acre < 18 T/A Harvested Yield per Acre 18-22 T/A Harvested Yield per Acre > 22 T/A Harvested Yield per Acre Average
Farms in category, % 15% 32% 53% 100%
Yield per Acre 15.0 19.7 25.8 22.2
Total Acres 227 74 64 92
Direct Costs
Seed/Acre $ 72 $ 73 $ 91 $ 82
Fertilizer/Acre $ 75 $ 69 $ 67 $ 69
Chemical/Acre $ 57 $ 28 $ 40 $ 39
Custom Hire/Acre $ 69 $ 85 $ 80 $ 80
Total Direct Costs
Per Acre $ 273 $ 255 $ 278 $ 270
Per Ton $ 18.02 $ 12.90 $ 10.89 $ 12.60
Overhead Costs
Per Acre $ 139 $ 166 $ 168 $ 163
Per Ton $ 9.37 $ 8.55 $ 6.55 $ 7.61
Total Costs
Per Acre $ 472 $ 502 $ 530 $ 513
Per Ton $ 31.50 $ 25.46 $ 20.53 $ 23.04

For each of the planned costs there is an interesting trend. Farms with lower yields averaged lower per acre costs but higher costs per unit of feed. Conversely, farms with higher yields had greater costs per acre but realized lower costs per unit of feed. Given that yields are subject to a variety of factors, it is vital that tracking costs goes beyond the calculation per acre. Examining the home-raised feeds’ unit costs helps determine if inputs are in line with outputs.

Given the influence of yield on home-raised crop costs, it’s important to estimate what the costs are and follow up by evaluating actual costs once yield estimates are finalized. A subset of 45 “Know Your Numbers” farm participants provided annual actual costs that were compared back to their planned costs. Figure 1 presents planned total home-raised feed costs per cwt versus the year-end actual total home-raised feed costs per cwt. The planned estimates were adjusted to account for cow number and milk production differences as compared to the year-end actual. There were a few farms where the plan was nearly identical to the year-end actual. On average, most planned costs were lower than the actual home-raised feed costs the farm reported. Having detailed expense records by crop combined with acres harvested and yields by crop will improve the accuracy of both planned and actual crop costs and the home-raised feed costs.

Chart showing actual home-raised feed costs versus planned home-raised feed costs

Figure 1. 2013-2015 Planned vs. actual total home-raised feed costs on 45 PA farms.

Dairy farms have a unique combination of resources and limitations to ensure their farm is profitable. To buffer market volatility, controlling home-raised feed costs by estimating expenses, determining actual costs, and monitoring both feed quality and quantity are needed. Penn State Extension has tools and programs available to help producers and their advisors get started. The “Know Your Numbers“ cash flow program is one method, and there is the newly revised CropCents mobile app. This application (available regardless of mobile or computer platform) allows producers to enter their direct crop expenses as well as partition operating expenses to all the crops produced on the farm, resulting in estimates of yields and costs per unit. Producers can determine the yields based on common units for each commodity.


Contact Information

Robert C. Goodling, Extension Associate, Penn State Extension, Department of Animal Science,, 814.863.3663.

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences research and extension programs are funded in part by Pennsylvania counties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by Penn State Extension is implied.

This publication is available in alternative media on request.

Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.

© The Pennsylvania State University 2016

Making the transition to no-till corn/cover crop system

Masoud Hashemi (UMass)
Richard Kersbergen (UMaine)
Kate Parson (NRCS-Amherst)
Samantha Glaze-Corcoran (UMass, PhD Candidate)

In New England, farmers generally rely on tillage to create a warm, dry, and weed-free seedbed. However, tillage makes the soil susceptible to erosion, and contributes to soil compaction, especially when the soil is wet and not well dried. Intensive tillage, lack of surface cover, and insufficient crop residue has played a significant role in soil degradation. In recent years, research by Extension and universities, as well as soil health campaigns by NRCS, have raised awareness and expanded farmer demand for more information pertaining to cover cropping and no-till systems.

Benefits of no-till with cover crop systems include:

  • Minimized soil degradation, including erosion, crusting, and
  • Water conservation from reduced soil evaporation due to residue on the soil surface, elimination of tillage practices that dry the soil, and more water stored in the soil due to increased organic matter levels, culminating in improved crop tolerance to
  • Increased soil organic matter as well as improved soil structure that will improve water
  • Reduced cost of operation – reports average $50 per acre savings in fuel and labor
  • Earlier plantings of corn following winter grain cover crop, which increases the likelihood of harvesting first cut hay, haylage, or baleage at peak nutritional
  • Improved opportunity to graze or harvest cover crops as emergency feed without significant delays in planting
  • Enhanced natural soil fertility due to improvements in soil
  • Less rocks to pick and more opportunity for efficient crop
  • Protected soil from high summer temperatures and heavy

Farmers are increasingly adopting no-till management in their cropping systems, and the number of those considering a transition to no-till is fast growing. However, the transition from conventional to no-till may present some challenges. There are several concerns that farmers need addressed before making their final decision:

Q: Is there a crop yield penalty in either the short or long term?

A: UVM Research has shown a slight yield drag when transitioning continuous corn fields to no-till while the soil improves from the cover crop and the reduced soil disturbance. Some dairy farmers in the North- east however have not seen a reduction in yield. UVM research, along with countless farmer experiences, does not show a yield drag when starting no-till corn into hay fields that are terminated in the previous fall with a herbicide. This technique is also a great way to start a crop rotation in fields that have not traditionally been used for corn silage production.

In fact, with extreme changes in weather conditions, including longer period of no or little rain, it is expected that corn grown in no-till system will perform better than those planted conventionally.

Q: Should changes be made to fertility management?

A: The short answer is yes. The following list includes tips and considerations for fertility management in no-till systems:

  • Soil pH can be more difficult to The transition to no-till will be best if the soil pH is already in a desirable range.
  • Nutrients applied to the soil surface, including lime, may become concentrated in the top Soil testing of the top two inches of soil, as well as the standard six inch depth, may be useful to identify a build-up. If the nutrient concentration test results from the six- inch deep sample are optimum or high, then nutrient accumulation near the soil surface should not be a concern. If the six inch results indicate low or very low nutrient concentrations and/or the two inch depth indicates high concentrations, then injecting phosphorus and potash with the planter or a separate fertilizer injector is recommended.
  • Manure cannot be incorporated into soil; if injection is not an option, ammonia nitrogen (potentially up to 50% of the total nitrogen in liquid manure) may be lost to the atmosphere. However, many researchers and farmers believe the benefits of no-till and the use of nitrogen conserving cover crops outweigh the potential nitrogen loss.
  • Cover crops capture nitrogen from manure and residual nitrogen from the previous season, thus helping to reduce nitrogen inputs to subsequently planted Even so, most no- till experts recommend applying 30-50 pounds of N per acre as a starter. This would be especially necessary if rye or other winter grain cover crops were terminated at a more mature stage.

Q: Do no-till systems require changes in corn hybrid selection?

A: No specific corn hybrid has been developed to perform better in no-till system. However, two of the integral parts of no-till corn are weed control and cover crops. Cover crops should be an essential part of no-till corn system. Figure 1 clearly illustrates that no-till systems with cover crops provide much more benefit than adopting no-till management without including cover crops in the rotation. To facilitate cover crop establishment, shorter-season corn hybrids should be selected as they will mature in time to get an effective cover crop established by mid-September.

Earlier maturity hybrids do not necessarily mean lower yields. UMaine, UMass, and UVM corn hybrid trial data has indicated that shorter-season corn does not suffer a significant yield penalty. Proper short-season hybrids can be selected based on their yield and quality performance from annual trials that are published by the above three states.

Chart showing the influence of various farming practices on soil organic carbon

Figure 1: The influence of various farming practices on soil organic carbon.

Q: What is it about cover crops that make them so important for no-till to be successful?

A: Cover crop roots break up compaction and create pores that are used by the following corn crop’s roots. Soil microbes that feed on carbon exuded from the roots, as well as the roots themselves after cover crop termination, produce sticky substances that bind soil particles together into aggregates. Aggregates are the key to allowing your no-till soil to breathe, infiltrate water and withstand heavy equipment. Some farmers have equated cover crops to “driving on geotextile fabric.” The soil microbes are as important as the rumen microbes in a dairy cow.

Q: How different would be weed management compared to conventional corn system?

A: In general, surface-applied pre-plant or pre-emergence herbicides are recommended to control early- emerging weeds, even if glyphosate-tolerant corn hybrids are used. Many no-tillers include the residual herbicide with the cover crop burndown. In general, annual weed pressure is reduced due to the heavy cover crop residue and limited soil disturbance.

Q: Does transitioning to no-till system reduce costs?

A: There are some initial costs to consider when transitioning to a no-till corn system. Some growers have modified their existing planters, while others have purchased new no-till planters. Both can be effective, but the key will still be to get the right seed placement. Some guidelines can be found on some You Tube videos from Vermont: and

Some key components are row cleaners, and/or wave coulter in front, proper packing wheels, seed firmer, and closing wheels. Additionally, the double disk openers may need to be replaced more frequently. There are cost savings in reduced plowing and harrowing. Using 2016 Pennsylvania custom rates, producers would save about $35 in acre by simply eliminating plowing and harrowing. In recent studies in Maine and Vermont, producers indicated a cost savings of $50 per acre in fuel and labor.

Adjustments you may want to make for transitioning into no-till:

  1. The easiest and most successful entry point into no-till corn production is to start with killing a sod crop in the fall and planting into the killed sod crop in the This technique is also a great way to start a crop rotation in fields that have not traditionally been used for corn silage production.
  2. Get your cover crop planted! Experienced no-tillers recommend cutting small grain rates back to 80-100 per acre, particularly when they can get the cover crop sown early in the fall (Before September 15) and they plan to allow the cover crop to get tall in the spring and do not plan to harvest it. This reduces the volume of material that the planter needs to get through.
  3. One concern when planting into a cover crop (killed or green) or into a dead sod is seeing your row markers! Some producers use foam markers to make it easier to see where their next pass will Others have purchased GPS monitors.
  4. Since the potential exists for a more variable seed placement, you may want to increase your seeding rate by about 10% to ensure a projected Keep your corn planter in excellent working condition and adjusted properly and plan to plant slower than you typically do. Make sure to get off the planter and check seed depth, especially when moving to fields with different soil types.
  5. By choosing shorter- season corn varieties, you are improving your odds of harvesting your crop when weather conditions are favorable, and you will not cause as much compaction or make as many ruts with trucks, tractors and For more Northern states, the earlier harvest will also reduce the risk of running into adverse wet weather conditions at harvest. Think about driving patterns for trucks entering the field to reduce the potential for problems in the future.
  6. Scout your fields! We have seen the potential for armyworm damage in no-till corn after a winter grain cover Armyworm moths may be attracted to lay their eggs on the cover crop in early spring, and then the larvae will be ready and waiting for the corn! We have also seen the potential for increased slug and snail damage when there is a lot of residual organic matter on the soil surface.
  7. 7) Don’t rely on a single application of herbicide for weed While many times, the killing of the cover crop may provide you with adequate weed control, we always recommend monitoring fields for weed populations. You may want to spray with some pre-emergence products or come back later with some post emergence products. Just be aware that certain weeds are difficult to control post-emergence (ex. crabgrass) while others are best-controlled post emergence (ex. field bindweed).

Additional resources for reduced tillage and cover crops:

Deadlines Near for Forage Risk Management Programs in Maine

The sales closing dates for 3 Federal risk management programs is approaching, programs include:

1. Forage Production Crop Insurance.

September 30, 2016 is the final date to purchase Forage Production Crop Insurance for forage seeded in the spring of 2016. Coverage begins on May 22, 2017 on acreage that has an adequate forage stand. To be eligible for this insurance, the stand must be pure alfalfa; alfalfa and perennial grass where 60% or more of the ground cover is alfalfa; or mixed alfalfa and perennial grass where alfalfa makes up more than 25% but less than 60% of the ground cover. Insurance protects against a decline in your Average Production History (APH) yield due to adverse weather conditions including hail, frost, freeze, wind, drought, and excess precipitation; wildlife damage; insect damage and plant disease, except for insufficient or improper application of control measures. Crop insurance premiums are subsidized based on the coverage level selected.

Coverage levels range from 50 to 75% of your APH at 100% of the price election. The price election for the 2017 crop year is $184 per ton. Forage Production Crop Insurance is available in Aroostook and Penobscot counties and is available outside of these counties through a written agreement.

2. Pasture, Rangeland, Forage Pilot Crop Insurance.

November 15, 2016 is the final date to purchase this crop insurance for the 2017 insurance year. This program is a new crop insurance option for Maine producers, providing protection of pasture, hay, and hayland against a single peril, drought. No historical production records are required. Losses are determined by comparing reported precipitation over a 2-month insured period to 50 years of historical rainfall data. Both reported and historical rainfall data are from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center (NOAA CPC).

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available online at the RMA Agent Locator. Producers can use the RMA Cost Estimator to get a premium amount estimate of their insurance needs online.

3. Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance (NAP) for Hay Crops.

September 30, 2016 is the final date to purchase the NAP program for hay. This program protects your APH from natural disasters that results in lower yields or quality. Coverage level options include the catastrophic level and up to 50-65% of your APH at 100% of the average market price. This program is administered and sold by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). Contact your local FSA office to learn more.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is in cooperation with the USDA Risk Management Agency to deliver crop insurance education to all Maine farmers. Visit our Risk Management and Crop Insurance educationwebsite. For questions please contact Erin Roche, Crop Insurance Education Program Manager, 495 College Ave., Orono ME, 04473 (949.2490;

Corn Chopping Time!

So how do you decide when to start chopping?

Whole plant dry matter is the key to deciding when to start chopping. With this year’s dry and hot growing season, the corn crop may be ready before you expect! I have seen some pictures of growers who have started on a few fields, especially to start a new pile or bunker so they can feed off of it in a few weeks while the main portion of the crop comes off.

Corn silage harvest should begin when the corn is between 30 and 35% dry matter. This is the optimum dry matter for good fermentation and represents the best quality measurement for decisions around harvest.

One complicating factor has been the drought. If the dry weather continues, it is possible that higher nitrate levels could be an issue. If this occurs, one recommendation is to chop higher as the nitrates accumulate in the bottom stalk. It is hard to make this recommendation as chopping higher, while it improves quality, impacts yield in a year when both the corn yield and the hay yields are down! Before you start feeding, you may want to check the nitrate levels when you do a forage analysis. See Dairy One’s fact sheet: Nitrates and Dairy Cattle (PDF).

There are many ways to check dry matter. Some of the newer choppers have dry matter monitors, making the process very easy! Another is to run some sample plants through your chopper or a chipper and using a microwave to dry the sample and do the calculation. Another option is to use a Koster Tester. I like the Koster tester method because it is quick..but I hate the scale that comes with the unit! I usually use a digital scale to make a better estimate of the moisture content. Remember that 30% dry matter is 70% water!

To Determine dry matter:

Weigh an empty container in grams. Weigh the freshly chopped corn in the container and record both weights. Dry the chopped corn down to 0 percent moisture. This can be done one of several ways:

  1. Overnight in a food dehydrator at 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a Koster Moisture Tester, commonly used to test forage moisture (takes about 25-30 minutes)
  3. In a microwave or oven, being sure to remove the sample every minute or less to prevent scorching. Samples dried in a microwave oven must be watched very closely, every 30-45 seconds, and dried at around 50 percent power to prevent heat buildup in the microwave oven that can damage it.

The Koster tester and microwave methods require constant monitoring, as they will dry the corn relatively quickly. Once the sample has reached a stable weight, the corn is at 0 percent moisture. Weigh the dry corn and container and record the weight in grams.

To calculate the percent dry matter, use the following equation:

Percent dry matter = 100 x (Dry weight – container)/(Green or fresh weight – container)

Maine Hay Directory

Did you know that UMaine Extension manages a hay directory for buyers and sellers of hay and hay products? If you have hay or forage to sell, this listing may help you find buyers! If you are interested in posting your products or looking for feed to buy, check out the directory at the Maine Hay Directory.

Sign up to receive Cows and Crops via email.

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Cows and Crops, August 2016

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016
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Cows and Crops — August 2016

Gary AndersonAnimal & BioScience Specialist
Rick Kersbergen, Sustainable Dairy And Forage Systems
David Marcinkowski, Dairy Specialist

Save the Dates

Pasture Walk at Wolfe’s Neck Farm
Thursday, August 11, 2016

Maine Farm Days 2016
Wednesday – Thursday, August 24 – 25, 2016
Misty Meadows Farm, Clinton, ME

Pesticide Credit Workshops – 1 credit awarded per workshop

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

10:00 to 11:00 a.m.
Comparing pests, soils, and yield in no-till and conventional till corn with John Jemison, Professor, Soil and Water Quality, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

11:10 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.
Using summer annuals besides corn silage for weed management and feed on the dairy farm with Rick Kersbergen, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

1:00 to 2:00 p.m.
Choosing and managing cover crops in corn silage systems—herbicide concerns, species selection, and planting methods with Lauchlin Titus, Agronomist, AgMatters (part of NRCS Soil Health series

2:10 to 3:10 p.m.
Spotted wing Drosophila—a new pest for horticultural crops with Tori Jackson – Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Thursday, August 25, 2016

10:00 to 11:00 a.m.
Insect identification exercise with Clay Kirby, Entomologist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

11:10 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.
Ticks and mosquitoes: Information for personal protection with Griffin Dill, IPM Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

1:00 to 2:00 p.m.
When Fluffy can’t keep up: Preventing and controlling rodents on the farm with Kathy Murray, Entomologist, Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation

2:10 to 3:10 p.m.
Invasive forest pests—Slowing the spread with Charlene Donahue, Forest Entomologist, Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation

Maine State Holstein Show
August 29, 2016 at the Windsor Fair

Drought Impact on Forages

Many areas of the state are suffering from a prolonged drought or sever dry conditions. While corn planting and first cutting of hay/haylage were timely and provided some excellent quality feed, the continued dry spell has significantly impacted the growth and yield of second and third cutting haylage.

Field in drought 2016Corn silage crops are also suffering with dry locations showing curling, just as the plant needs water for good pollination and ear development. Not only will yields be low, the quality of the crop will be diminished due to a lower percentage of kernels in the crop.

To add to the situation, drought stressed crops such as corn tend to accumulate nitrates in the lower portion of the stalk, so if the drought situation continues, producers may want to “chop high” to reduce the potential for nitrate toxicity.

For organic producers who rely on pasture, the situation has caused some of them to limit grazing so as not to severely damage pastures. These farms are also digging into what would normally be their winter supply of stored hay and haylage.

Doing a feed inventory will be critical to make some decisions heading into the winter. Knowing what you need and making adjustments in the fall is much easier than trying to find and purchased feed for your herd in March and April next year. If you need help doing some of these calculations and estimates, please contact one of us so we can help you determine what you have and what you need.

Gary Anderson, 207.581.3240
Rick Kersbergen, 207.342.5971
Dave Marcinkowski, 207.581.2740

Plan Now for Cover Crops and Transition to No-till Corn

Now is the time to plan for your cover crop strategy for the fall, especially if you are going to use winter rye. You should have your seed source located and plans in place for seeding as quickly as possible after the corn harvest.

Additionally, now is the time to plan for no-till forage rotations. Killing old sod in the fall provides the best opportunity for a successful transition into no-till corn. I saw many fields this year where producers tried to kill sod in May with poor resulting corn stands. Killing the sod in the fall is not only more effective, but also requires less herbicide! Some of the best corn I have seed this year came from fields that where sod was killed in the fall.

Remember to soil test and lime fields where necessary when transitioning from sod to no-till corn.

EQIP and AMA Conservation Programs Sign Up Deadline Set for August 19

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the application deadline date for two of its principal conservation programs – the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA).  The Fiscal Year 2017 application deadline for EQIP and AMA is Aug. 19, 2016.

Agricultural producers and foresters are encouraged to sign up now for EQIP, which provides financial and technical assistance to address varying natural resource priorities. The Fiscal Year 2017 funding consideration application deadline for most EQIP fund pool categories will be Aug. 19, 2016.  This does not include the EQIP National Water Quality Initiative and Conservation Innovation Grants.

“These programs are completely voluntary and support agricultural production and environmental quality in Maine,” said NRCS-Maine State Conservationist Juan Hernandez. “The deadline is approaching quickly, so we encourage you to contact one of our specialists at your local USDA Service Center as soon as possible.”

EQIP categories that are included in the Aug. 19 signup deadline, in addition to the “general” local pool categories (such as animal waste, cropland, forestry, seasonal high tunnels, pasture, and wildlife) are:  Beginning Farmer; Socially Disadvantaged; Tribal Projects; Water Conservation/Irrigation; Aquatic Organism Passage Projects; Conservation Activity Plans; On-Farm Energy and Organic.

Agricultural producers are also encouraged to sign up now for the AMA program, which has a Fiscal Year 2017 application deadline for funding consideration in statewide funding pools of Aug. 19, 2016.  AMA assists agricultural producers to manage risk and voluntarily address issues such as water management and water quality. For 2017, NRCS will continue to offer an opportunity for funding High Tunnel Systems through AMA.

There is a continuous, year-round sign-up for these two programs, but applications submitted by the deadline mentioned above will be considered for funding in Fiscal Year 2017.  Proposals submitted after that date will be held for the next period of funding consideration.

For more information on EQIP and AMA, please contact your local NRCS Service Center.  Service Center locations and contact information can be found on the Maine NRCS website, along with more information about the programs and services NRCS provides.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

Milk Quality Management Reminders

With the hot, humid weather we have been having in July and will continue to have through August and much of September, there is the potential for increased somatic cell counts.  With the hot, humid weather, blood vessels are dilated to increase surface area and an attempt to get rid of excess heat.

Unfortunately, one of the areas affected is the teat end.  This results in the teat canal potentially being more open than in cooler times of the year so the use of a barrier teat dip is recommended. Make sure that you are using nonreturn teat dippers and use only enough dip for milking.  Wash teat dippers and use multiple sets of dippers that you rotate each day.  Here is a list of reminders for this time of year (important at all times, but very important now!).

Remember … Clean and Dry, Clean and Dry, Clean and Dry

  • Make sure stall surfaces are clean and dry. Evaluate pasture areas for low, wet areas and keep cows out of these areas to keep teats clean.
  • Wear disposable gloves during milking
  • If teats are visibly dirty at milking time, clean teats before predipping.
  • Make sure predip contact time is adequate.
  • Strip 3-5 streams of milk from each teat to flush out the streak canal. (this also has the benefit of stimulating milk letdown)
  • Remove all predip using individual towels
  • Attach machine and milk
  • After cow is milked out, post dip with an effective barrier teat dip

Fall Oats — Something to Consider to Help with Forage Supplies

Fall seeded oats (August seeding…meaning NOW!) can provide some significant boosts to your forage supply going into the winter.  Seeded now, oats will grow rapidly into the fall, and when a frost coincides with the boot stage of the plant, the oats can accumulate significant amounts of sugar and a very digestible forage crop.

Several types of oats are available, and forage type oats have become popular.  Forage oats should be seeded in early August for best results. If you are seeding later in the August, regular grain type oats may be more appropriate and perhaps a little less expensive.

Seeding oats for a fall forage supply does have some risks. The crop does accumulate nitrates, so the continued dry weather not only may impact germination, but also the quality of the crop. Oats can produce a significant amount of forage with relatively high moisture content, so trying to wilt and dry the crop for good fermentation in a silo or baleage may be difficult in October when this crop would normally be harvested.

Seeding oats for forage in late summer or fall is also a great way to transition into a no-till corn rotation as in the spring, you will have a nice seedbed ready to plant into without having to plow and harrow.

Welcome Dr. Juan Romero to the AVS FacultyDr. J. J. Romero, Assistant Professor School of Food and Agriculture, University of Maine

Welcome to Dr. Juan Romero who has recently joined the Animal and Veterinary Sciences faculty in the School of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Romero is originally from Lima, Perú. He received his B.S. degree in Animal Science from Universidad Agraria La Molina, Perú, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Animal Science and Ruminant Nutrition from the University of Florida. Following his Ph.D. he conducted postdoctoral research at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Romero’s research aims to expand the understanding of the factors that affect silage and hay quality through the development of novel additives that will improve the forage digestibility and the profitability of livestock producers. Specifically, his program focuses on the use of enzymes to solve specific issues in silage production and the development of additives to enhance the stability of stored forages. Dr. Romero has pioneered the use of advanced protein technologies to compare commercially-available enzyme products, identifying for the first time some of the important enzymes involved in improving fiber digestibility. He has also use microbiological sequencing to assess bacterial communities in silage and the rumen.

Dr. Romero will also be teaching AVS145, our basic animal science class for incoming students.

Maine Hay Directory

Did you know that UMaine Extension manages a hay directory for buyers and sellers of hay and hay products? If you have hay or forage to sell, this listing June help you find buyers! If you are interested in posting your products or looking for feed to buy, check out the directory at the Maine Hay Directory.

Sign up to receive Cows and Crops via email.

You can also follow Cows and Crops via RSS at New to RSS? Learn more.

Cows and Crops, June 2016

Monday, June 27th, 2016
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Cows and Crops — June 2016

Gary AndersonAnimal & BioScience Specialist
Rick Kersbergen, Sustainable Dairy And Forage Systems
David Marcinkowski, Dairy Specialist

Save the Date

2016 Sustainable Agriculture Field Day Tour
Thursday, June 30, 2016 from 4:30 – 7:00 pm
Rogers Farm 914 Bennoch Rd, Old Town, ME
FREE! Pesticide Credits Available: 1, CCA Credits Available: 2.5

Please join us for our annual sustainable agriculture field day tour, which will be focusing on the following topics:

  • Small grains – Wheat and barley variety trial, Diseases census in cereals, and Cover cropping for N management in cereals
  • Potatoes – Nurse crops, Crop circle sensors, and Mycorrhyzal fungi
  • Vegetables – Managing weeds with soil solarization and HAK cultivator demonstration
  • Risk Management – Strategies for small production farmers

Acreage Report Deadline Approaching for Spring-Seeded Crops
Deadline Friday, July 15, 2016
Farmers with crop insurance on a spring-seeded crop (i.e. potatoes, small grains, corn, etc.) must submit acreage reports to their crop insurance agent by the deadline.

Maine Farm Days 2016
Wednesday – Thursday, August 24 – 25, 2016
Misty Meadows Farm, Clinton, ME

In This Issue

Covering bunker silos…everyone’s favorite job!

Grass silage with wet beet pulp on top covered with plastic and tarp.

Grass silage with wet beet pulp on top covered with plastic and tarp. Photo by Rick Kersbergen.

You’ve spent a lot of money getting that crop into your silo … now take some time not to loose it!

As I watch all sorts of techniques to cover bunker silos, I have to refer back to my trip to the Netherlands where forage is limited and expensive! Every farm I visited made every attempt to minimize losses from the bunker. (see photos below)

I often shake my head at what I see on many farms where tons of spoilage are thrown away each year. This “shrink” is a major financial loss that never really shows up in the checkbook except for higher grain bills and lost milk production!

Some things to ponder when you are covering your valuable quality forage…

  1. The thicker the plastic, the less loss you will experience. Plastic that is 8.5 mils thick will out perform traditional 6-mil plastic and will hold up to walking and other hole punching problems.
  2. White plastic (white side up!) will also reduce losses.
  3. Oxygen limiting barriers do reduce dry matter and spoilage losses, when combined with good plastic management.
  4. Lining the sides of the silo with plastic will also greatly reduce losses. This is something I see very few people do, but can greatly enhance good fermentation.
  5. Design your covering to reduce/eliminate water infiltration down the sides of the silo.  Use sandbags to try and seal the edges and divert water and melting snow away from your feed.
  6. Consider alternatives to just plastic. Producers in Europe often use tarps on top of the plastic and then put sand on top instead of tires.  The tarps greatly reduce the potential for holes in the plastic. Sandbags could be used with the tarps to hold down the covers as well.

When covering the silo, remember that securing the plastic to keep air out is just as important choosing the right covering! If you see your plastic “billow” in the wind, it is not keeping air out of the silo!

Corn and Soil Nitrate Testing-using the PSNT

Much of the corn is now near or at the stage for Soil N testing (8″-10″ tall). Many of you have done this in the past, but many farmers don’t use this tool at all. While far from perfect, the test does give you some idea of where your crop stands and what it might need for the next few months.

More information about the test from Penn State.

With the PSNT, for optimum N nutrition for corn, the soil nitrate-N level in the PSNT should be above 21 ppm when the corn is 12 inches tall or around leaf stage 5-6. If it is above this level, there is adequate N in the soil to meet the needs of the crop. However, if it is below this critical level then sidedressing additional N is recommended, even if adequate N was applied earlier.

A couple of important points to keep in mind when using the PSNT:

Wait until the corn is at least 12 inches tall — sampling too early can give misleading results. Late is better than early, as long as you still have time to sidedress if necessary.

Do not sample immediately following heavy rains, wait at least 2-3 days.

Take a 12-inch deep soil sample. Dry the sample the same day it is collected! Ideally you can dry on some newspaper in the sun (on a non-windy day!) The sample should be taken between the rows so as not to hit any starter bands.

Use a quick test kit or send the dry sample to a soil testing lab for NO3-N analysis.

I have the materials to run some batches here at my office…but only if you take and dry the samples and get them to me in a timely manner. Many crop consultants do this as a service as well.

Checking Plant Populations

Now that corn has been planted and growing well, many producers want to check on plant populations. There are several ways to do this that involve some calculations using 50 ft of row length. A simpler way to determine plant populations on your fields can be done by dividing 522.7 by the row width that you use. The resulting answer is the number of feet in a row that equals 1/1000 of an acre. Count the plants in that length at several locations, take an average and multiply by 1000 to get plant population per acre. For example, if I use 28 inch rows, 522.7/28=18.7 ft. I count the plants in 18.7 ft at several locations and take the average times 1000 to get my plant population per acre.

Here is a table of some row widths and lengths of row that equal 1/1000 of an acre.

Row Width, inches
Row length in ft for  1/1000 acre

From: UT Agronomic Variety Trials (PDF)

Protected PTO shafts!

Don’t take the risk!

Some recent tragedies in Maine should be food for thought next time you hook up a damaged cover or reach over a moving shaft. Many farms use PTO equipment with damaged PTO shaft covers or even no cover at all.

Replacement PTO shields are available. Working with NYCAMH (New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health) , I have received some funding to off-set the cost of farmers replacing broken or missing PTO shields. These universal type shields are easy to install and can save your life or those of your loved ones!

Additionally, I have some funds to help replace worn or damaged slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs that should be on every tractor and implement on the farm that goes down the road.

Please contact me if you are interested so we can work to protect you and your employees!

Mycotoxins in Feed

Reports of mycotoxins in feed are being heard across the state. Mycotoxins are produced by molds in feed. The main mycotoxins seen are DON (also called vomitoxin), T-2 toxin, fumonisins and zearalenones all produced by Fusarium molds and aflatoxins produced by Aspergillus molds.

Aflatoxin is the only one that is regulated due to human health issues. A metabolite, aflatoxin M1, can be measured in milk; rations over 20 parts per billion (ppb) aflatoxin usually produce milk with higher levels of aflatoxin M1 than the legal limit. Several years ago when there were high levels of aflatoxin in the Midwest, every tanker load of milk was analyzed for aflatoxin M1.

Samples of feed ingredients for mycotoxin analysis should be taken from several locations and/or sampling the mixed feed for an accurate result. Grab samples of feed from one location may give inaccurate results with one location having no mycotoxins and other areas being high. If you have one mycotoxin, you may also have others in the sample; doing a mycotoxin screen for several toxins is recommended.

In general, mycotoxins affect milk production, general health of animals and reproductive efficiency. The impact of mycotoxins on animals varies greatly by species. There are feed additives that act to either bind mycotoxins or deactivate mycotoxins. There are several products available and most dairy producers have these in their feed on a regular basis. Typically, products that both bind and deactivate are used in rations. If you have questions on what products are available, talk with your feed consultant to see what they have.

Action levels in complete feed for various mycotoxins for dairy cattle from Cumberland Valley Analytical Services are Aflatoxin, 20 ppb; Vomitoxin (or DON), 2 parts per million (ppm); Zearalenone, 25 ppm; T-2 toxin, .5 ppm.

If you have further questions or would like additional resources, please contact the state livestock office in Orono.

Maine Hay Directory

Did you know that UMaine Extension manages a hay directory for buyers and sellers of hay and hay products? If you have hay or forage to sell, this listing June help you find buyers! If you are interested in posting your products or looking for feed to buy, check out the directory at the Maine Hay Directory.

Sign up to receive Cows and Crops via email.

You can also follow Cows and Crops via RSS at New to RSS? Learn more.

Cows and Crops — May 2016

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
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Cows and Crops — May 2016

By Rick Kersbergen, Extension Professor, University of Maine Cooperative Extension,

In This Issue

Time to get ready for first cutting! Some have started already!

Yes…or AT LEAST YOU SHOULD BE THINKING ABOUT IT! You may be plating corn, but you may want to think about your first cutting of haylage.

I have been looking at the maturity of a lot of grasses throughout central and southern Maine and have seen some quick maturing stands. I have seen one farm start and we’re actively mowing on May 16th! See proof below.

How high (or low) should you cut your forages…and does it matter? (Yes, it does!)

A recent article by Tom Kikcer from New York documented the detrimental impacts of setting your mower too low. High ash contents in your forage leads to lots of potential problems, including detrimental impacts on forage fermentation and slow regrowth. Read the article below.

Adapted from Tom Kilcer, May newsletter

So, what is a little dirt in the tons of forage? For starters you have just inoculated a highly digestible, high sugar forage with a range of wild and not so beneficial bacteria and molds. They are not good for your cows or for making silage. Second, Dr. Sniffen of Fencrest LLC found that going from 9 to 11% ash will knock 1.9 pounds of milk off per cow per day. On a 100 cow dairy this is loss of over $11,590 in a 305 day lactation of a high forage diet of 50% legume. I calculated for two mid west farms this year that simple ash levels were costing them $65,000 on one, and $75,000 on the other from lost milk production by feeding 2% more ash. Adjusting cutting height, and/or putting on extended skid plates will leave a taller stubble to allow for tedding plus raking/merging without skyrocketing ash levels.

You need to look at YOUR forage ash samples to see if you are leaving milk in the field by mowing too close. Yes, you can rebalance the ration at the cost of more grain in order to reach the same milk. Even this has its limits as Dr. Sniffen clearly points out: “the NDF concentration will go up; they balance on the presumed analysis and the fact is that the NDF is not really the higher NDF but the lower NDF. Thus they end up with inadequate effective NDF, and the cows get metabolic consequences.”

This intensively managed grass field was cut too short. If it regrows at all, it will have less yield/year and many more weeds than mowing at 4 inches. Adding insult to injury, because of increased ash, it will produce 2 pounds of milk/cow/day LESS than if it was mowed at the optimum height. A grass field should look green when you finish.

Bottom line: flat knives, higher stubble for maximum forage quality. Set for a 3 inch cut height for Alfalfa; 4 inch cut height for grasses. Leaving a higher stubble will also allow for faster regrowth and higher subsequent yields.

Never forget about Farm Safety! A recent tragedy should make all farmers take notice!

A recent tractor tragedy in Aroostook County should be a wake-up call to all farm and machinery operators. Farm accidents happen all too frequently and without warning. Simple steps can help to make you and your employees a little safer. Take some time to be aware of hazards on your farm, including those you don’t always consider…respiratory hazards can be everywhere on the farm. Read the Pennsylvania farm safety team newsletter.

If you have some PTO shaft safety shields that are missing or in need of repair, please let me know. I am coordinating a bulk purchase of universal replacement shield. It could save your life!

Uber for tractors?

What does Uber and Farming have to do with each other? See this interesting article in the Washington Post!

Maine Hay Directory

Did you know that UMaine Extension manages a hay directory for buyers and sellers of hay and hay products? If you have hay or forage to sell, this listing may help you find buyers! If you are interested in posting your products or looking for feed to buy, check out the directory at the Maine Hay Directory.

Sign up to receive Cows and Crops via email.

You can also follow Cows and Crops via RSS at New to RSS? Learn more.