Monthly Archives: January 2013

High Quality Forage Benefits Dairy Cows

There are many benefits of high quality forage, as the saying goes: you get what you pay for.  You can reverse that statement by saying you don’t get what you don’t pay for.  Or even that you could pay for it later!  Studies have shown that when dairy producers invest in high quality forage they will see a valuable return on that investment.

Choosing High Quality Forage

Optimal animal performance can improve with high quality forage.  It is essential for weight gain, producing higher levels of milk, increasing reproduction success, and farm’s profits.  It’s important to give your dairy cows the appropriate type and amount of feed according to their specific nutritional needs.  Factors that could help define these needs include: sex, age, species, and production status.

When choosing your high quality forage for either beef or dairy cows it’s also important to think about the follow factors: whether the cows will eat the feed, how much of the feed they will actually eat measured against how much energy is required for their specific activity (milk production, breeding, beef production, etc.), digestibility, nutrient content, and any negative factors the forage might have on a specific cattle group.

High quality forage performs at its best when it is harvested young.  As crops like alfalfa mature the fiber content increases, lowering the quality.  Forage that is too high in fiber slows digestion.  With slower digestion the animal will not take in as much and might not consume enough energy to meet their activity requirements.

High Quality Forage Boosts Milk Production in Dairy Cows

High Quality Forage Dairy Cows

Milk production has high nutrient demands on dairy cowsDairy cows have to consume large quantities of food to consume enough energy to keep producing milk.  In some cases a dairy cow cannot physically eat enough feed to meet the requirements of milk production; and the cow’s body fat could start depleting in an attempt to meet those energy requirements.  This is a problem.

High quality forage like Alfalfa hay can greatly benefit dairy cows and milk production.  Alfalfa hay contains less neutral detergent fiber and is more digestible.  Also, high quality forage like early harvest alfalfa is lower in fermentable fibre and passes through the digestive system faster, allowing the cow to consume more.  That means dairy cows that consume high quality forage are able to increase both their energy intake and total milk produced.  Talk about getting your cake (alfalfa hay) and eating it too!

Milk that is produced with a higher fat concentration is can usually be sold for a premium.  Since high quality forage is high in the right type of fiber it also supports milk fat production, which in turn affects the producer’s bottom line.

A study came out of the University of Wisconsin that was able to conclude that the milk response of dairy cows fed different levels of alfalfa forage quality was improved when fed more high quality forage.  They were able to prove that high quality forage contains more energy and also allows dairy cows to eat more!

The study also tested adding a concentrate like grain to lower quality forage to try to offset reduced milk production resulting from low quality feed.  High producing dairy cows are sometimes fed concentrates to help boost the energy content of their feed.  Even adding this concentrate could not improve the results of the feed.  Here are their examples:

Early bloom alfalfa with 54% concentrate produced almost as much milk as pre-bloom alfalfa with 20% concentrate, but no amount of concentrate would produced over 70 lb of fat corrected milk from mid or full bloom alfalfa.  Further, the 71%-concentrate formulations are not sustainable, due to animal health problems associated with low fiber. 

They also found that the actual fat concentration of the milk produced fell as the added concentrate increased.  With milk with high fat concentration going for top dollar, adding too much concentrate to the feed could affect a dairy producer’s profit.

View their study results and further research on high quality forage.

 

Sources:  http://www.extension.org/pages/26278/in-vivo-digestibility-of-forages, http://extension.umass.edu/cdle/fact-sheets/harvest-management-high-quality-alfalfa-hay

 

 

A Japanese Dairy Farm-Timothy Hay and Alfalfa Hay Customers

Harvest season 2012 was a very busy time for everyone at Barr-Ag. Along with our farming responsibilities, we usually host clients from abroad. They come to examine Timothy Hay, Alfalfa Hay, mixed hays and other crops and set up their purchasing. We took the time this year to sit down and profile one of our Asian customers. The farm was happy to oblige us with all the data we needed, but for confidentiality reasons has asked that we do not post their name.

Japan is divided into 47 sub-national jurisdictions (like states or provinces) known as Prefectures. Our client’s dairy farm, located in the Tochigi Prefecture, is about 2 hours north of Tokyo. Tochigi Prefecture is the second largest producer of raw milk in Japan. The farm has been operational for 26 years and is home to 2000 Holstein dairy cows. For the past 7 years this dairy operation has been receiving our shipments of Timothy hay and alfalfa hay every month. “We like that Barr-Ag is a farm-based company because of the stable supply source”. “We would recommend Barr-Ag to other dairy farms because having a relationship directly with the grower is a big advantage”.

The 2011 Tsunami in their country had a devastating effect on agriculture. “Our neighbour farms have gone out of business.” “We experienced significant loss because we were unable to ship our product for a few weeks.” Because our business relationships at Barr-Ag extends over long periods of time, we get to know our clients and we care about them. We kept in close contact and adjusted our supply schedule to meet their immediate needs after the Tsunami.

There wasn’t much else we could do from a small, rural, agricultural community in Olds, Alberta, but we wanted to do what we could to help. “Barr-Ag donated a few containers a month after the disaster. We distributed them to our neighbour farms to help”. It’s what farmers seem to do everywhere; neighbours helping neighbours even if they happen to live 5000 miles away.

Mixed Hay for Horses

During our winter season in Alberta, horses are unable to forage in pasture and hay becomes their main food source.  When choosing hay for your horses, it’s important to be mindful of not only the quality of hay you are offering your horses, but also the type of hay.

Generally, hay can be classified in three different types.  Legume hay, that would include hays high in protein and nutrients like alfalfa, is very popular among horse owners.  Grass hay, which would include timothy, orchard, and fescue are also popular, especially for adult horses.  Mixed hay is usually a blend of grasses and legumes and with the right combination horses are eager to dive in!

Mixed Hay

Mixing grass hays with legume hays has its advantages, including benefits to growers and producers.  Growing legume hay like alfalfa will help add nitrogen to the soil by nitrogen fixing.  In fact, alfalfa could fix up to 500lbs of nitrogen per acre and this nitrogen usually goes directly to the plant.  This natural process can help cut down on fertilizer use and growing costs.

What are other other benefits of choosing mixed hay for your horses?  They love it!  Adding legume hay to grass hay may increase the appeal of the feed for most horses and in many cases it is very easy for them to eat.  Plus, introducing a legume like alfalfa in mixed hay also improves the feeds quality by increasing vitamin A, protein, calcium, and the amount of energy in the feed.

If you throw down a grass hay flake and a legume hay flake, your horse may go straight for the legume hay.  When you grow your different hays together, it becomes too difficult for picky eaters to separate out the tasty portions.  Some horse owners prefer the mixed hay because it ensures their horses are getting a balance of key nutrients, making them strong and healthy.

Mixed Hay Right for your Horse?

Remember that each horse’s food requirements vary and are dependent on age, stage of development, workload, activity and metabolism.  You should always consider each individual when choosing hay for your horses and when deciding on portion sizes during feeding times.

Because legume hay tends to be higher in protein, calcium, vitamin A, and calories than grass hays, they make a great feed for young and growing horses, high performance athletes, and lactating mares.

Grass hay is usually lower in protein and energy and higher in fibre.  This makes it a good choice for most adult horses.  It satisfies their appetite, but cuts down on the excess calories and protein they may not need.

Mixed hay will give your horses the dietary benefits of alfalfa without giving them the excess they might not require.  According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, too much excess could predispose young horses to problems like developmental bone disease and epiphysis.  If you are unsure, consult your veterinarian when putting together your horses diet plan.

Mixed Hay Sales from Barr-Ag

Consider Barr-Ag when choosing hay for your horses!  While Barr-Ag grows some irrigated mixed hay, most of our mixed hay crop is grown on dry land. It is a versatile crop which combines non-GMO alfalfa, Timothy, orchard hay, brome hay and fescue.

For further information about mixtures currently available or to schedule a visit, contact us.