Maximizing Milk on Home Grown Grains and Forage

Feb/March 2008 NOFA Vermont/UVM Extension workshops
Sarah Flack and Lisa McCrory’s Notes 

(These are just notes… please excuse poor spelling and run on sentences.  Handouts are also available for some of these speakers)

Karen Sullivan:  dairy nutritionist with USDA NRCS, Norwich NY.  Her specialty is grazing dairy nutrition.


How can you maximize forage intake?

How can you understand what forage quality is from a cow perspective and from a rumen microbe perspective?

When plants are in their early, younger more vegetative stage of growth they are considered highest quality.

  • Pasture
  • Dry hay
  • Ensiled:  balage or haylage

Pasture.  Should be high density, contain clover, be at least 6 to 8 inches tall when cows are turned in.  This high quality pasture keeps rumen microbes happy.  Extensive grazing with over mature pasture, variable quality and pastures which are weedy or overgrazed make for “sad” rumen microbes.

Grass quality… tips of plant leaves are higher quality.   Cell wall is lower quality and cell contents are more quality.  In a young vegetative plant the cell contents are 80% and cell wall is 20%.  In an old over mature plant, the cell contents are 20% and cell wall is 80%.  Cell wall is made up of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.

Young Plant

  • 40 %Cellulose (most digestible part
  • 50%Hemicellulose (less digestible
  • 10%Lignin (least digestible
  • so the young plant is most digestible

Mature Plant

  • 20% Cellulose
  • 30%Hemicellulose
  • 50%lignin

ADF is a measure cellulose and lignin

NDF is a measure of all three and is helpful in predicting intake.  Higher number = lower DM Intake

Young plants are higher protein, lower fiber, higher energy

Mature plants are lower protein, higher fiber, lower energy


Typical forage quality

Nutrient pasture hay haylage
DM% 20-25 88-92 35-40
CP% 20-30 8-14 14-20
NEL, Mcal/lb .70-.75 .50-.60 .50-.65
ADF%    20-30 30-40 30-40
NDF% 40-50 55-65 45-55

RFV (relative feed value) is based on alfalfa, so it is helpful for looking at alfalfa but it is less helpful looking at grass forages, particularly if comparing grasses to alfalfa.

Maximizing intake from forages:  higher quality forage encourages higher intake fro forages

  • 60 to 100% of diet can be forages.  Should be at least 60%.  In order to get higher intakes then higher quality is required
  • Pasture is the cheapest forage.  The more you rely on pasture the more profitable you can be.  Pasture provides protein, is highe digestible and can increase DM intake.
  • The more DM intake the cow eats, the more milk she can make.
  • For every 1 lb extre DMI you can get 2 lbs more milk

Estimating DM intake

  • Its difficult to measure pasture DM intake directly compared to stored forages
  • DM intake depends on plant and animal factors
    • Plant density, maturity, and species
    • Biting rate, grazing time, and intake/bite
    • Supplemental feed in barn
      • Substitution effect
        • Volume of feed
        • Nutrient content of feeds

Karen likes 70 to 75% DM intake from forage, BUT this requires management for higher quality pasture and high quality stored forages

Substitution rates are variable

  • Forages (higher NDF than concentrates) fed in the barn generally substitute on a 1:1 ratio.  This means for every 1 lb of forage a cow eats in the barn, she will eat 1 lb less of forage from the pasture
  • Concentrates (which are low NDF) fed in the barn substitute on ratios ranging from 0.4 to 0.6:1.  In other words, for every 1 lbs of concentrate a cow eats in the barn, she will eat about 0.5 a lbs less of pasture

Karen thinks of corn silage as a forage which contains high energy.  But even thought it has grain in it, it still is a 1:1 substitution when fed on pasture.

Karen looks at pasture as a replacement for protein grain.

Total Ration Factors:  What is fed in the barn influences what cows will olutarily select to eat from pasture

Meal to meal preference for energy and protein depends on whether energy and protein requirements were satisfied during previous meals.  So if you feed protein they’ll want energy.  If you feed energy they’ll want protein.  This is one of the reasons that supplementing with protein in the barn and then turning them out to pasture isn’t a good idea!  Research by Daryl emick in NY showed that cows fed 11% protein grain in the barn went out to pasture and selectively grazed clover.  Cows fed 22% protein grain went out and selectively grazed grass.

If you feed a concentrate in the barn which is high in protein, you will reduce their DM intake by more than a pound.  ANY protein!

Methods of estimating Intake

  • Forage ndf intake
    • Low quality
      • 0.8 to 1% of body weight
    • high quality
      • 1.0 to 1.2% of BW
    • pasture + grain
      • up to 1.4%of body weight
    • Up to 3.25%BW pasture only
      • Milk production limit

What is the relationship between maturity, NDF, DMI and milk production?


  • 33% ndf in 6 to 8 inch tall pasture
  • 50% ndf in 10 to 12 inch tall pasture

DM as a % of body weight

  • 3.6% DMI possible at 6 to 8 inches tall
  • 2.4% DMI possible at 10 to 12 inches

Milk production of a 1400 lb cow… what is possible?

  • 90 to 100 lbs milk on 6 to 8 inch tall pasture
  • 65 to 70 lbs milk on 10 to 12 inch tall pasture

What about grazing tall?  If you are just grazing the tops of the plants that will contain lower NDF and allow higher DMI however the plants are less dense at the top of the canopy so DMI is lower due to less plants per bite

Example Calculations:

  • Assumptions
    • Haylage = 45% vs 60% NDF
    • Cow needs 70% Forage
    • Cows BW = 1100 lbs
  • 1100 x 3.5% = 38.5 lbs total DMI
  • 38.5 x 70% lbs Forage DMI
  • 27 /1100 = 2.4% Forage % BW OR
  • 1100 x 1.1% = 12.1 lbs NDF % BW

Which Haylage can they eat more of?

  • 60% NDF x 27 lbs = 16.2 lbs NDF
    • 16.2 . Estimate of 12.1
    • 16.2 lbs / 1100 lbs = 1.4% BW
  • 45% NDF x 27 lbs = 12.15 NDF
    • 12.15 lbs / 1100 lbs = 1.1% BW

more likely to eat 45% NDF forage

Balancing the ration?

  • Determine level of forage DMI
    • Rule of thumb
      • Forage DMI = 0.8% to 2.2% of body weight
      • =10 to 30 lbs fDMI Holsteins
      • = 8 to 22 lbs fDMI Jerseys
    • More pasture is better
      • Subtract DMI from stored forages
  • Look at protein and energy relationships

What about small grain balage?  Boot stage is lower NDF and dough stage is higher NDF.  Cows seem to sort through the bale and pick out the grains and upper parts of the plant and leave the straw.  There may be some benefit from cutting it higher (leaving more straw in the field standing).  Dough stage is more yield and lower quality… OR you can mow higher.  Also palatability is lower in the milk stage.  Depending on weather and grain species, it may go from boot to dough stage very rapidly so it can be hard too manage.  It may be as little as 1 week between boot and dough stage.

What about sorghum Sudan grass or millit?  These  are high energy but still do not contain the same amount/quality of soluble energy which you find in grain.


  • Protein from pasture . cow & rumen bacteria requirements
    • 20 to 30% CP in pasture but Cow Needs 16% to 17%
  • Protein from pasture highly is rumen degradable
    • 70 to 80 Degradability
  • Protein — amino acids, peptides & ammonia

SO… how is excess degradable protein dealt with?  It wastes energy:

Ideally the degradable protein is used by the microbes but requires carbohydrates (energy) to convert into microbial protein which is used by the cows.

However the excess degradable protein is not used by microbes, gets converted into ammonia which requires energy.  The ammonia goes into the blood to liver where it is converted into urea and excreted.  This wastes energy




NDF digestion rates

Moisture and processing of feed makes a difference in the rate of digestion.  Its good to have a mix of feeds with different rates of digestion when the cows are out on pasture.  Corn silage for example stays in the rumen longer than finely ground corn.

Fastest molasses
Fast Ground oats, barley
Finely ground corn
Coarse ground corn, rolled small grains
Ear corn
Slow Corn Silage
Slowest Whole Dry Corn


Match the carbohydrates to the protein

Corn silage?  Karen said anything from 10 to 30 lbs/day is an acceptable amount to feed.  It does’t take a lot of CS to have a good impact on rumen microbes but it can be hard to feed small amounts without having spoilage.  You can tell if you are feeding too much by looking at the manure.

Check the Balances:  most cows need 7 to 8 lbs protein and 20 to 30 Mcal of energy

  • Weighted average of all feeds
  • Protein = %CP x Lbs Forage D

+%CP x Lbs Grain DM

7 to 8 lbs Protein (16% to 17%)

  • Energy = Mcal/Lb x Lbs Forage

+ Mcal/Lb x lbs Grain DM

20 to 30 Mcal (0.70 to 0.78 lbs)


Karen likes free choice minerals but doesn’t think that they can detect what their own deficiencies are and correct them they way they can know if they need energy or protein.

  • The key is to encourage consumption
  • Make sure there is a complete mineral profile
  • She likes to offer kelp free choice if possible as it appears to have health benefits


Rick Kersbergen:  University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Discussion of how you make your decisions on what to feed and how much to feed.  Discussion of rumen function and physiology and the different types of feed available.

Grain price as well as availability are increasingly becoming an issue.  For example an 18% protein dairy grain shows a 45% increase from 2007 to 2008 and a 71% increase from 2005 to 2008.

Dairy data from 2005 shows that 30 to 38% of operating expense are purchased feed.  With increased grain costs adding to that, purchased feed can become an even higher % of the operating expenses.

So what can we do best and where can we improve here in the northeast?

Grow cool season forages in perennial sods.  These are the least expensive and highest quality forages we can grow in the Northeast.  The most expensive feed is purchased grain from the Midwest.  Growing warm season annuals is more expensive than perennial cool season forages.

The cheapest way to make milk is good grazing management for as many months of the year as possible.  Cows do the harvesting and spread their own manure.  When well managed they yield per acre is high and the nutritional value is also high.

How can you reduce off farm grain inputs?

#1 Improve pasture management and quality

#2 Improve stored forage quality

#3 Other crops?  When are they worth the cost and do you have the land/equipment/labor resources?

If you were to improve your forage quality from 14% protein to a 17% protein forage, what are your estimated financial gains? This is based upon the assumption that by feeding a higher quality forage, you will not need to feed as much grain to meet your cows nutritional needs.

– Organic protein is valued at at least $1.20/lb

– 60 tons of protein per ton of forage dm

– forage yield of 4 tons/acre

– $240 increase in protein per acre

-100 acre of grass = $24,000 in potential grain savings

– Don’t forget to add increase in energy content and intake potential with improved forage quality

*note, forage intake would increase to compensate for decreased grain feeding and for higher palatability, so would also need to take that into consideration.

* getting first crop off early, however, may provide greater yields per acre taking care of some of that increased forage intake.

ADF – predictor of energy in a feed

NSC (non structural carbohydrates) – measurement of cell contents

Harvested Forages:  Cutting first cut early.  Delaying first cut by 5 days can cost a 100 cow dairy $8000 in extra feed cost or lost milk production due to lower forage quality.

Forage maturity is number one factor in quality.  Quality only declines after the plant is cut.  More rapid drying will reduce losses.  Respiration losses are the most sever nutritional losses.

What about cutting in morning or afternoon?  Conditioning rolls aide in drying forages for haylage and dry hay.  Much of the research on cutting in the afternoons is from the west where they are able to rapidly dry the hay to minimize sugar loss due to respiration.  Cutting in the morning may make more sense in our climate because it has more time to dry and can be harvested more quickly.  Best strategy is to minimize the amount of time between mowing and baling or putting it in the silo or bunker.  Mowing in a wide swath first thing in the morning will allow it to dry most rapidly.

New seedings don’t always mean higher quality feed.  Timing of harvest is important and so is how well the feed is stored.

Waste:  look at how to minimize forage waste in harvest, storage and feeding.

Study looking at trying to answer the questions of if we should you grow corn silage or not and if you should you try to grow your own small grain or corn for grain?

Research trials now being done are looking at 4 different feeding combinations of feeding corn silage, perennial forages and home grown grains (not pellets).  These trials are being done on farms over a 3 to 4 year period to provide information on costs, risks, equipment and management needed so that farmers in the northeast can decide what makes the most sense on their own farms.  8 farms in Maine are participating as well as the University of Maine and the NH Organic Dairy Farm.  They are now in the second year of the feeding trials.  They are also looking at the best way to improve old sods on dairy farms using either improved grazing management or reseeding.

Data on daily milk income over feed costs:  preliminary data indicates commodity feeds will improve feed costs for organic farms. This data is for winter stored forage feeding.  Grass forage was seeded to perennial rye, timothy & alfalfa.   All were about 40% of diet from concentrates.  This is first of the 3 year data only

Grass commodity  $11.24  (commodities included triticale, roasted soybeans & small amount of ground corn which was run though a roller mill)

Corn commodity  $ 10.78

Corn pellet  $ 10.32

Grass pellet  $ 10.20

They also did a study looking at buying feed from companies and looking at quality to compare quality of the grain and how that compares that to the organic grain companies label.  They found that analysis from load to load still seems to vary considerably.  Calcium levels were extremely variable.  ADF (fiber levels) Fluctuations indicate that ingredients change often.  Some analysis were higher in protein than expected.  Grain companies are challenged in the organic market as well.  Homegrown grains should be tested for mycotoxins on a periodic basis.

Complementing the grain fed with QUALITY forages is the key to least cost rations.

So how does this relate to how to make decisions on your farm about how much to feed and what?  What makes quality feed?

  • Dry matter:  if its too wet, cows cannot consume enough dry matter intake.  In haylage, 30% DM is much better than 20%.  Haylage harvested in May should be in 30 + % DM.  Low Dry Matter Feeds don’t ferment as well and lower potential dry matter intake. Lower NDF value = higher intake potential.  Higher ADF is more energy.
  • Crude Protein
  • ADF
  • NFC – a measure of sugar… fermentable or quickly digestible energy.

Rumen physiology… how  much grain should you feed and what type?

  • Protein information
    • Soluble protein
    • Degradable protein
    • NPN (non protein nitrogen)
    • Undegradable protein
    • By pass protein
    • Microbial protein
    • Metabolizable protein

Protein and energy primer & Rumen physiology:  rations are usually balanced on protein and measure of protein is crude protein (which is the amount of Nitrogen times 6.25).  protein in the rumen may be soluble and some is more slowly degradable or un degradable.  What is important is how much of that protein will be metabolized into amino acids and absorbed by the cow.  Soluble protein is what quickly turns into ammonia in the rumen.  The amount of energy in the rumen is what determines how much of that soluble protein can be metabolized and made available to the cow to make milk.  If you don’t have a good feed source of energy the cow will not be able to make milk on that soluble protein and she will make a lot of urine and loose weight.  This means that if you have great forages and pasture you need an energy source.

BALANCE THE TYPES AND AMOUNTS OF PROTEIN AND ENERGY GOING INTO THE RUMEN:  Overfeeding energy leads to fat sick cows.  Overfeeding protein leads to thin sick cows.

How can you tell if the Energy/Protein balance is good?

  • Watch the manure.  If the manure is too loose it indicates too much protein or too much soluble protein.  So try to increase the amount of energy (such as corn)
  • Milk Urea Nitrogen test. WATCH MUN (milk urea nitrogen) to see if your cows are utilizing protein well.  MUNs should be in 13 to 15 range for an average normal level.  Levels of 20 on pasture can be seen and that is too high… most common on pasture when feeding too much protein.  11 may indicate not enough protein in the ration.
  • Light brown manure which has mucus in it indicates overfeeding energy.  You can also look for grain in the manure.

Corn grain in the rumen is relatively slowly released but if you grind it more finely it is more rapidly available and fermentable so that it is more immediately available.  But if its more finely ground it ideally should be fed several times a day.

Barley is rapidly fermentable compared to corn which makes it ideal to supplement cows on pasture, but would be best if it was fed 4 to 6 times a day.

Oats as an energy source is more slowly released.

Molasses is also a good rapidly released energy source.

Corn silage is a better thing to feed than haylage when on pasture because it has a higher energy content.

Maximizing energy content in pasture can be done by introducing higher energy species like perennial ryegrass and offering more pasture in the afternoon when the BRIX in the pasture grasses is higher.

But how do you use this when you don’t feed for optimum production?  Most organic dairy farmers are not feeding to maximize production due to the high cost of grain and need to balance herd health with production.

  • Issues related to underfeeding your cows based in their genetic potential.
    • Body condition score can be lower
    • Reproductive performance may show up particularly if their BCS gets too low
    • Over feeding protein?  Use MUN to see if you are before serious symptoms show up.  Laminitis & poor reproductive performance will appear months later when its too late so test MUN now.
    • Does it make economic sense?  When is it worth feeding more grain?

If you are not feeding to maximize production, be sure to watch BCS, manure and MUN.

In an organic system you may not be feeding for maximum performance but will instead be trying to make the best match of grain or other energy source with your forages.

What about feeding no grain?  Very few  farms have the right cow genetics to do well in a no grain system.  Most number show that feeding grain is still cost effective even at the currently high prices. What happens in a zero grain diet?  Grasses and Legumes coming into the rumen will have varying levels of fermentable energy… this is the limiting factor.  Production is based on how much energy is available to make protein available to the cow to make milk with.  If you have high sugar grasses you can make more milk.  Some farms are using a higher pre grazing height with a small amount of molasses as an energy source.  Much of the dairy genetics on our farms now have not been selected to perform well without a supplemental fermentable energy source.

What about growing our own grain?

Why should we consider growing small grains in the Northeast?

      • Is it worth it?  Do you have the time, labor, equipment, soils, skills?
      • Its an opportunity to reward good management
      • Flexibility in harvest methods as well as storage and feeding options.  For example bale it or combine it?
      • Interesting way to utilize the “winter” growing season
      • Allows you to start a crop rotation through your perennial sods

Quality factors in the field

  • Mature grains
  • Weed contaminates
  • Diseased grains
  • Test weight
  • Uniform kernels
  • Harvest moisture

Factors influencing quality

  • Harvest, handling and storage equipment
  • Initial condition of the grain
  • Grain moisture
  • Grain temperature
  •  Aeration system management
  • insect and mold control
  • monitoring system

Differences in grain nutritional qualities.  There are a lot of variations from one grain to another.  Maine Barley tests had 10 to 16% protein.  Wheat varied from 13 to 21%!

What about spring plated vs fall planted grains?  Fall planted grains don’t utilize fertility as well in the fall and may benefit from spring fertility being added.

Testing is critical.  There are huge differences within one type of grain in variety also.  Be sure to select the right variety to grow.

Different grains require different processing, drying and storage methods.  How you process the grain changes how it is digested and what other types of feed are best to balance the ration with.


  • Grinding (hammer mill)
  • Rolling
  • Steam Flaking
  • Roasting
  • Tempering.  Tempering small grains is adding 10% water to initiate germination process.  Then hold for 24 to 48 hours.  Then process minimally to allow for microbial digestion.  Benefits are decreased energy needed for processing, increased feed efficiency, modification of rate of digestion

Best type of processing varies with grain type.  For example barley might be best if coarsely ground to more slowly release the energy.  Soybeans you’ll want to look to see if there is a portable roaster in your area.  Roller mills are affordable.  Storage needs to be adequate in size with good ventilation to prevent mold and mycotoxins.  Need to factor in additional labor needed.  Tempering is a process of adding moisture to grain, letting it germinate (for about 24 hours) and then process it through something like a hammer mill.  This increases the digestibility.  The germination area could be an insulated trailer with a heat source to keep it at 38 F, which is all that is needed to allow these small grains to germinate.  Tempering corn requires temperature to be up to 50 F.

Tempered Barley study was done in Maine which looked at milk yield, intake and digestion showed that it is very beneficial.  It doesn’t take a large expense to set up but does require some processing/storage equipment.

Feeding considerations

  • How much can you feed?
  • What to feed with the grain?
  • How is it processed?
  • How often will you feed the grain?
  • What is your production goal?
  • Know your grains and specific characteristics?
  • Watch your cows and watch the manure.

What do you do if you have poor forage quality?  Don’t forget that you are not feeding for maximum production as you make the decision of what type of grain or other feed to purchase.

Oats are relatively inexpensive right now compared to wheat.  Wheat is high energy but it is very rapidly fermentable.  Oats is more slowly fermentable and digestible.

Using small grains to rotate through your perennial sods:  if using a fall planted small grain, you can underseed back to perennial sod in the spring by frost seeding.  Can add corn to the rotation… corn then fall seeded small grain then frost seed back to sod in spring and harvest grain off the top or bale it as small grain balage/silage.

What other options to alter our forage systems?

Double crop corn and small grains

No till systems for grain and forage crops

Creative thinking…


  • Multiple opportunities for harvest
  • Decisions can be made depending on climate, forage needs, and feed process
  • Rotation strategies
  • Grazing potential

Why the interest in small grain silage?

  • Producers looking for a forage energy or protein source that requires little or minimal weed control
  • Spread the crop risk
  • Easy crop to establish and grow
  • Double crop with corn or BMR Sorghum Sudan
  • Winter cover crop with good feed value
    • Scavenge excess nitrogen
    • Protect soil from erosion
  • Rotation crop with corn that leads to perennial forage seeding (under seeding)

When you cut has a big effect on quality and palatability

Cows don’t seem to like the milk stage as much

Mixing in peas or under seeded legume/grass will increase the protein content

Cutting it taller will increase the energy density but will lower your yield.

Boot Stage Forage Quality:  15% to 18% protein range.  High moisture content (18 to 24% DM).

Silage Quality of small grains harvested at Dough Stage:  protein is lower but DM is higher.

Planted in mid September and over wintered.  Can be harvested in boot stage in May or in a soft dough stage (2 weeks before grain harvest stage) at about 50 to 60% DM in bale.  They may be as low as 40% DM in the bale.  Cut it relatively tall and round bale it.

Silage quality of small grains harvested at dough stage

TDN Protein%
Barley 64 to 68 9 to 11
Wheat 58 to 64 9 to 11
Oats 56 to 62 8 to 11
Triticale 54 to 58 8 to 11
Rye 52 to 56 7 to 9

About 4 tons to acre yield average.  Can then drill in a warm season grasses to graze or harvest or can underseed a legume to harvest later.

TIMING OF HARVEST IS CRITICAL.  Balancing yield and quality.

Fall or winter grazing of fall planted grains:  it can be possible to graze some grain crops in the fall and still harvest them the next spring or summer.

Winter barley trials are not growing or yielding well.  Triticale is the one that’s doing the best so far in Maine.  3 ton per acre yields in May.  Winter spelt also growing and yielding well but feeding quality is lower.

Is it worth it?  How much grain in the ration can you replace with this sort of feed?  Probably fewer than 30% of this feed can be considered “grain”.  It is a good source of fermentable energy.  It is a good crop to mix with corn, but it may not be cost effective if you are in a permanent sod UNLESS you are using it as a way to rotate some of your perennial sods through a small grain to reseed it to a perennial mix.

Buying pre blended or pelleted grain vs. buying in commodities and doing your own blending and processing?  If you are buying whole grains you have more control over the quality than if you are buying a pre-blended pellet.  The quality of the grain makes a big difference, particularly in energy content.  For example a low test weight barley it will have a significantly lower energy content.  This is one of the reasons that buying the grains directly can be a more profitable ration… but only if you are looking at the quality test results.

Info from the summary of the most recent years economic data/study on Maine and Vermont dairy farms:

“The most profitable organic dairy farms in Maine and Vermont organic study were the farms that shipped higher amounts of milk per cow, but they didn’t have the highest purchased feed costs per cow.”

“the organic sector has come to grips with what they are selling to the consumer… organic milk at the lowest possible price or a dairy production system based on family operated farms”  RL Parsons UVM (note this will be part of an article in the next NODPA newsletter)



Develop a high quality forage program

  • Start with your soil
  • Focus on your best drained soils first
  • Improve soil organic matter
  • Test your soils for pH and nutrient content

Choose the right hay crop mixtures that have the highest potential for producing quality forages

Soil Drainage will determine what species will persist over time.  So choose the right mix to plant based on your soil drainage and type.

Some grasses are more tolerant of intensive cutting.

  • Smooth brome grass is somewhat intolerant of frequent early cutting


  • Slightly more tolerant of early first cut but not as tolerant as others

Orchard grass, reed canary grass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass

  • Most tolerant

First cutting has the highest potential for having the most digestible forage.  But it is also the highest risk of losing quality due to the challenges of harvesting early enough and with good weather conditions.

Forage quality goals:  %NDF

50 to 55 for Cool Season Grasses

40 to 45 Alfalfa & Red clover

Grass cutting management:  digestibility of grasses is much lower if you cut in June instead of late May.  Aiming for the 50 to 55% NDF is critical to maximize quality and digestibility of the grasses.  Third week of May is ideal… but not always possible!  Making the first cut pre boot is ideal.  Be prepared to make second cut within 35 days.  Try to make your silage in a day.  Mow early in the day and spread out forage to maximize drying.

Drying speed:  You can loose 2 to 8% DM in the first part of drying if it is too slow.  Most of that DM loss is energy/sugar that is being lost to respiration.  Conditioning is a help in this process if you are making dry hay and less helpful for making haylage where just a wide swath can speed the process.

What are the requirements for lactic acid production?  This is the type of fermentation we want in our silage.

  • The right organisms and the right amount:  inoculants can help
  • Lack of oxygen:  fill the silo or bale it as quickly as possible.  BUT pack the bunk as densely as possible
  • Plenty of sugar in the grasses.  Proper wilting of forage will increase sugar content.  Wilting also minimizes leaching loss from the silo.
  • Correct moisture content


Guy Choiniere spoke about his farm in Highgate.  The farm includes 100 acres of cropland, some of which is also grazed.  75 acres of permanent pasture.  40 acres rented grassland.  18,000 lb per cow average from 65 cows.  Its all certified organic and milk is shipped to organic valley.  Their approach is to Maximize Milk Production on home grown forages from their 65 cows with 3 goals

  • Healthy animals
  • Good milk production
  • Profitability

In 2003 they were non organic and feeding 100 tons of grain/year.  They now feed 75 ton/year.  Milk production is the same and they milk the same number of cows.  Butter fat has increased and protein has increased.  Their grain to grain to milk ratio was 1:4 and is now 1:8 in 2007.

Changes made included:

  • Improving the pasture system.  When they were non organic they grazed one 15 acre area.  As part of the organic transition they used EQUIP funds to design and build a grazing system.
  • Built a bedded pack with a cover over it for winter exercise and feeding (60 by 140 feet).  Was designed at 80 sq ft/head.  They also use this in summer as a shade structure.  Bedding is chopped hay, and the pack is taken out once a year and windrowed in the field it will be spread in.  Mostly used on the cornland.
  • High Forage Based Diet:  they focus on producing high quality forages which are consistent.  They aim for a 17 to 18% protein content in their TMR with all the protein coming from the forages.

Cow longevity… keeping the cows in the herd and healthy for as many lactations as possible is one of his farms goals.  He aims for at least 4 or 5 lactations but finds that many hit peak production in their 6th year and many in his herd are in their 8th or later lactation. Cows are managed to keep stress low and the bedded pack helped with that.  Since he’s got them out on the bedded pack and out of the tie stall barn his milk production has gone up.   He feels that the lower stress on his herd allows him to feed less energy while still maintaining good herd health and milk production.  Guy is noticing that the older cows can produce more milk on the high forage diet and having an older herd is part of why the herd average has remained high.

They feed long stem high quality forages to young stock to start training them.  They do get some grain up to 1 year old and then no grain after they are one year old.  Guy sends his older heifers to Heather Darby’s where they are custom grazed during the summer. Milkers get fresh pasture after each milking and also get some stored forage in the bedded pack area and then get their grain and haylage in the barn.  They have an automatic round bale feeder in the tie stall where they are milked.  So they are constantly encouraging the cows to eat… maximizing forage dry matter intake.

Winter Ration

  • 32 lbs balage
  • 13 lbs haylage
  • 10 lbs cornmeal/barley grain

TOTAL of 55 lbs DM/day

18000 lb herd average

forage production:

Wrapped and dry round bales plus grass silage in the silo.  Corn silage mixed with grass silage in the silo.  Aim to cut at 10% bloom.  Uses a covered barnyard/bedded pack which is bedded with 400 bales per year.  Their first cut in 2007 was 16% protein which was mixed with the 2nd and 3rd cut to maintain the right protein level in the TMR.

Their strategy for high protein forages include

  • Species selection/mixture
  • Timing of cutting
  • Mower height
  • Timely harvest

Aiming for total protein in his TMR of 17% in the ration. He doesn’t feed more than 10 to 12 lbs of grain per cow.  All his protein comes from their own forages.  They use a lot of variety and diversity in their seeding mixes now to improve forage quality and make sure that something will grow well in the varied soil types, soil moisture on different parts of the farm.  He also likes the variety of root diversity and soil organisms from having many types of plants in his meadows.

He mows and leaves a 4 to 6 inch stubble to allow it to grow back more quickly and just take the higher quality upper portions of the plant.  He tries to get in and out of each field within a 3 day period whether the area is being grazed or harvested mechanically.

They do all their own forage harvesting but have the manure custom spread.

Energy is used in his ration to balance the protein.  He relies on quickly drying his feed down to preserve energy content.  Is using a wide swath system and drying his crops down as fast as possible to keep the energy content high in the feed.  The faster you can dry it down and stop the respiration stage of the forage the less energy gets burned up.  Their goal is to dry it down to at least 50% before picking it up.  They relying on the cutter conditioner (roller) to drop their moisture the first 10% moisture although some research shows the conditioner may have some disadvantages.  They are using a windrow merger. Another goal is to have it wrapped within 4 hours of baling.  They are no longer using the bunker silo because they felt that their system with that bunk was allowing the development of too many micotoxins.  They are using their silos again now for 3rd cut grass silage and their corn silage mixed together.

They grow 15 to 20 acres of corn/year.  Corn is only grown for one year in a freshly turned sod.  Corn used are open pollinated varieties at a 30,000 seed population.  Aims to have corn planted by June first.  Rotated sod for at least 4 years, with corn for only 1 year and might consider doing small grains for 1 year.  They use a flex tine and cultivators on the corn land for weed control but mostly depend on rotation to keep weed population low to begin with.  Land is reseeded back to grass/legume mix with 20 to 25 lbs seed/acre.

New seedings are plated to a mix of legumes and grasses.  He is trying different varieties and like the later maturing varieties.  Species include alfalfa, red clover, timothy, blue grass, festolium, tall fescues (not for grazing), orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass.

He feels that often the old sods are compacted and likes to rotate them through annual crops to improve plant species and loosen up the soils.  Meadows are reseeded to a diverse mix of legumes and grasses.  New seedings are sub soiled to reduce compaction and manages to build or maintain organic matter.  He’s brought the organic matter content up to 5 or 6 % in the soils on the farms.  He takes soil samples and uses a lab which gives him base saturations.  He addresses things that are seriously out of balance but doesn’t follow all the soil labs recommendations.  He pays particular attention to calcium.  He’s also looking at trace minerals now too.  His soil maintenance program is minimal and right now includes 100 lbs pelletized lime, 150 lbs sulpomag, a very small amount of boron, zinc and manganese.  This is all mixed together and may also include some soft rock phosphate and gypsum.

Earl Ransom
Rockbottom Farm

Earl brought samples of his 2007 forage crop for us to look at (and smell).  He made corn silage, oats and peas silage as well as dry hay, alfalfa and grass silage in 2007.  Before Earl farmed in Vermont he farmed in Iowa, where they grew all their own forages as well as grains on 800 acres.

The farm is in Strafford VT and is at 1500 feet of elevation and has been certified organic since 1996.  They bottle their own milk from 49 cows and farm a total of 300 acres including pasture.  They make 600 round bales of which about ¼ are dry and 10000 dry square bales, much of which is sold as horse hay (late cut first cut).  He likes the horse hay market for the land he can’t get onto early.  He likes to feed dry hay to all the youngstock and bred heifers and saves the ensiled feed for the lactating cows.  There are only 60 acres of tillable land, much of which is in small fields due to the topography (steep), rocks and soil types in Strafford where the farm is.

In 2004 he grew a crop of triticale and peas on 6 acres and got 47 round bales which tested 17.5% protein.  He is now using a kuhn discmower and does wide swaths and is able to bale hay the same day at about 55% moisture and wrap it.

In 2007 he grew oats and peas together.  He likes this better than alfalfa because on his limited acres he can get better tonnage than alfalfa and it rotates well with his corn. Earl feels that the oats sometimes get too coarse in the forage.  His seeding rates are at 115 lbs/acre of 25% peas and 75% oats. Mixes oats in peas and drills them in together.  He likes to seed his hay/clover/legume crop after he harvests the pea/oat/triticale.  He seeds right into the standing stubble.  He’s also seeded alfalfa at the same time as the oats/peas but usually only if he has to plant the oat/pea mix late.

The rotation is that corn is chopped in late sept or October and immediately drills in winter rye.  If he has time to disk it he first he will but he usually doesn’t.  the rye is to hold the soil in place for the winter because his fields are not flat.

Some years he’ll pick ear corn if the corn dries down well enough but then its usually too late to seed to rye

Peas with triticale was wrapped the next day as 4 foot bales and he felt they were almost too dry because the peas were falling out of it.  Peas come out of the shells easily even before they dry completely so it has to be managed.

They shred the bales and blow it into a feed bunk for the milking group in their freestall bedded pack area.

Earl also runs a milk bottling creamery on the farm so he has to fit his mowing and baling into the scheduling of milking and bottling.

Earl likes the yield from his small grain silage and likes the rotation with his corn (5 to 6 tons per acre of small grain silage and 2 to 3 tons of grass per year is his yield on the poorer quality hillside grass meadows and 17 tons per acre from his corn silage) and then gets a nice alfalfa stand the next year.

For soil fertility they use a lot of compost which they make from the bedded pack which is using wood chips as bedding.  They use a small amount of lime and sulpomag now too.  The farm was abandoned when his family took it over and most of the land had to be cleared and at that time the spread a lot of rock phosphate, lime, sulpomag and other minerals as they built up the soil fertility.  They do a lot of soil testing and only add compost unless the soil test indicates that minerals are needed.

When he’s seeding it as a nurse crop he seeds it at ½ the rate as if he was seeding it just as a forage crop.  At that lower rate he can get better sunlight reaching the alfalfa under the oats & peas.

Heather Darby

Small grains

  • Barley & hulless barley which can be difficult to grow
  • Oats & hulless oats
  • Triticale which not everyone is happy with as a feed
  • Wheat both spring and winter
  • Winter rye

Soybeans grow well here. Soybeans do well on clay soils but not if there are rocks (hard to combine!)

Peas also can be grown and can be grown in a mix

Barley requires well drained soils

Oats or wheat are a more adaptable grain to grow

Corn (for grain) is challenging due to our short growing season but is being grown successfully and then there’s corn silage and HMC which is easier

What type of grain do you want to grow?  Do you want to raise energy or protein?

How much grain should you grow:

  • 2 tons of grain per cow per year if you are feeding 10 lbs/head/day.  With yields of  2 tons of corn per acre… 60 cows at 2 tons = 120 tons which is 60 acres of corn

Spring grains are planted in April/early may

Designing a good crop rotation is necessary for soil health, minimize weed, help with erosion, maximize yields.  Soil fertility requires crop rotation.  All the successful organic corn growers only grow corn for 1 year following a sod plowdown.  Target your amendments and don’t use them if you don’t need them.

Production challenges:

  • Learning how to grow a new crop
  • Do you have enough land
  • Equipment needed
  • Dealing with the northeast climate
  • Learning how to harvest a new crop (avoiding micotoxins)
  • Learning how to store a new crop (avoiding micotoxins)
  • Time management… is important to focus on forages first

Crop rotation is essential.  Corn yields will be very low if it is grown without a rotation and the best crop to rotate with is sod.  1 year of corn is best and 2 years is the maximum number of years you can do corn.  Its not worth growing corn for a 3rd year.  Soil testing is important.  Apply amendments if needed along with manure/compost.

Weed management!

  • Crop rotation is essential
  • Interseeding and cover cropping
  • Planting dates and timing
  • Seeding rates (particularly higher in small grains)
  • Mechanical weed control is what you do just to clean up what ever survives all this.

YIELD RANGE.  How much grain can you expect?

Spring barley, oats, peas, wheat 1500 to 3000 lbs/acre
Winter wheat, triticale 1200 to 1500 lbs/acre
Soybeans (maturity groups 00, 0, 1.0) 20 to 60 bu/acre
Grain corn (short season) 100 to 200 bu/acre
High moisture 2 to 6 tons/acre
Silage (slightly longer season) 12 to 20 tons/acre

Louis Rainville in Highgate grows 200 acres of grains along with hay and pasture on his family dairy.  75 cows, 150 total head.  Average about 50 lbs milk/cow.  They grow all their own grains on 250 acres plus 325 acres of forages.

Soybeans – 60 acres grown to bring in nitrogen and usually grow well.

Corn 150 acres

Other crops (peas and small grains on 40 acres)  peas are particularly good if you don’t have access to a soybean roaster.  They grew theirs with oats and got a ton/acre yield.  Be sure to get the correct pea variety which are low tannin if you are going to combine them.  Its ok to grow the other varieties for forages.  The peas are also good because they are harvested early and you have time to put in a winter cereal/small grain.    Louis has a flex head on the combine.  Peas are very susceptible to wet weather and you can have crop failure due to disease such as powdery mildew.  In Quebec they grow oats peas and wheat together (20% 60% 20%) which stands up well.

Rainvilles crop rotation is:

  • Corn after green hay sod plow down
  • Soybean
  • Corn
  • Cereal grain (under seed forage)
  • Then back to hay sod crop

Combines:  require routine maintenance and adjustment.  A poorly maintained combine will break or crack grains which will then mold in storage (micotoxins!).

Beans are planted in 30 inch rows.  They use flat bottom aeration storage.  Grain drying and bean drying is essential to prevent mold or heating or micotoxins.  Its helpful to test for moisture content.  Also in spring you can have problems with condensation so you may need to turn on the fan in spring on warm days to warm the grain and prevent spoilage.

Grain dryers can be portable or permanently installed.  Its always better to let the corn dry more in the field before harvesting.

For weed control in his corn, Louis uses a Kovar tine weeder which is affordable (can purchased from Bob LaFrancois) and works well.  It shouldn’t be the only weed control tool and only works if the timing is right.  Go out at mid day on a sunny day and run it about 1 or ½ an inch of depth to control weeds.    He also uses a rotary hoe if there’s been a rain as it works better in wetter conditions.  Ideally he uses the tine weeder twice but weather conditions will create a different routine.  He uses the tine weeder in standing corn with the second run at 4th leaf and feels that its not damaging the corn.  He also uses a mid mounted cultivator which is easily steered compared to one behind the tractor so its easier to avoid ripping out crops.  Louis likes the C shank design in his heavier soils.  He also hills with every pass. His corn is hilled to the bottom leaves.  He likes this cultivator  when weeds are ¼ inch tall or less. Usually does 2 tine weedings and 3 cultivatings each year on the corn fields.  He interseeds winter rye at the last cultivating at 100 lbs/acre.  They also did a trial including 15 lbs of clover with that but found it didn’t make a measurable difference and was expensive.  Louis has cultivated corn when its fairly tall (waist high) and has found no long term root pruning damage on the corn.  He’s found that weeds often indicate soil fertility imbalances.

Soybean growing at Rainvilles has been fairly successful with good yields.  Have had some soybean aphids but no rust problems.  Beans are roasted before storage.

They use a grinder mixer to prepare grains to feed to the cows.  Soybeans are roasted before storage.  They grind the corn fine but run the soybeans more coarsely using a ¼ inch screen.  Corn is stored ground (dried correctly).  If its 14% it will store well but if its 15% it will not store as long or as well.

Heather Darby announced that there is an organic grain growers group meeting regularly.  Contact her if you’d like to come to some of their meetings and she’ll add you to the mailing list.  The next meeting is April 3rd.

Spring grains should be planted in April for best success and beating the weeds.  Fall seeded grains do best when planted mid September and in the Champlain valley up into October can work.  Winter rye can be seeded later.

Jack Lazor is in his 30th year of growing grains at Butterworks farm.  They also milk 40 jerseys and make organic yogurt.

They grow about 300 acres of grains and forages including 100 acres of small grains. Including winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, barley and mixed grain.  They also grow sunflowers, soybeans, corn, dry beans and grass/legume sod as well as pasture for the dairy herd.

Corn:  They use organic seed or untreated seed and plant with the soil is at least 50 to 55 degrees.  They use the shorter season especially if harvesting it for grain.  They plant at a heavier seeding rate than normal (35,000).  Usually just grow corn for one year after a grass/legume crop or cover crop plowdown.  They interseed a cover crop and use compost.

They don’t begin row cultivation till the corn is 3 to 5 inches tall and can use the tine weeder up to about 6 inches tall.    They will do 2 or 3 passes with a mid mount cultivator.


  • 60 days from silk to black layer which means its mature but not necessarily dry enough to pick yet.
  • Dent is when it is starting to form hard starchy endosperm.
  • ½ milkline 65% whole plant moisture and time to chop.
  • Black layer is maturity… black at base of kernel and 35% moisture.  Now you wait until the starch is dry enough to store for grain

Dry Down Process after corn matures depends on

  • Heat
  • Rain
  • Frost
  • Variety
  • Grain texture

Organic Corn Production

How much?  100 bu/acre is good in cooler higher elevation areas

Harvest yield of 75 to 200 bushels (2 to 5 tons) per acre


Dry corn needs a bin with aeration

Ear corn can be stored in a corn crib

High moisture Ear corn needs an upright silo or an ag bag


Dry shell or ear corn he uses a hammermill

High moisture corn – rolls, grinder blowers

Consult a nutritionist!

If you don’t want to dry your corn you can use a picker and a crib for earcorn.  They key to ear corn is to pick it when all the milk is out of the kernels (there will be a black layer at the base of the kernel) you can pick it and put it in the crib.  Ear corn is good feed and even the cob contains energy.  Jack is feeding earcorn this winter with a barley/peas mix (barley/pea mix was grown together) with a small amount of soybeans to balance the ration.

Soybean growing:

He plants when the soil is at least 60 F (mid to late may).  Plants 30 inch rows (150, 000 to 180,000 seeds per acre).  He grows OOO, OO, O and 1 and the OOO don’t canopy as well as the other varieties.  Soybeans are planted after corn or small grains or sod.  They use a soybean inoculant, sulpomag and gypsum and a very small application of compost.  For weed control they do blind cultivation before emergence and 2 to 3 inter row cultivations.  If planting with a corn planter they go in deeper and blind cultivation is less risky.  If planting with a drill then don’t go as deep.

Ripening:  earlier plantings dry down faster.  When the beans shake in the pod they are ready.

Harvesting:  20 to 60 bu/acre with 30 bu average.  15 to 16% moisture for harvest – less shattering and damage Storage at 12 to 13% moisture.  Roasted before feeding

Small Grain Production:

Seeding rates:  started planting cereals at 100 lbs/acre.  Most seed companies now recommend planting much higher rates per acre.  Jack feels like we should do some seed rate trials to see what rates get you the best weed control and yields.  He’s also interested in planting at ½ the rate in two different directions (using his 7 inch spacing).  Some farms in Quebec are using closer row spacing.

Jack grows wheat, much of which is sold for human consumption, barley, oats, mixed grains, triticale (though still hasn’t found a variety that won’t sometimes winter kill in his climate but it is high yielding when it survives).  He gets a lot of his varieties from Canada which has a similar climate.  He likes to plant winter grains whenever possible because they get a good start in the spring before the weeds.  For spring planting he likes to get the wheat in very early but barley does better once the soils warm up a bit more.

Jack likes tine weeding small grains pre emergence and has also done some tine weeding of small grains when they are fairly small.

Jack has had variable results growing barley. Barley has the poorest standability of all the small grains.  2 ton per acre is the highest yield he’s gotten with barley but is usually 1 to 1 ½ tons per acre.

Spring grain production:

Spring planted barley – earliest maturing.  About 90 days from planting to harvest.

Spring planted oats, wheat, mixed grains (oats,wheat,peas)

Spring planted peas, fava beans

These all fit well anywhere in the rotation… after fall plowed sod or after corn or after beans.  Plant the spring grains early but not too early.  April for what, early to mid may for barley, oats and mixed grains

Spring seeding rates
Grain 125 to 175 lbs/acre
Mixed grains at 135 lbs/acre (60%wheat, 20%oats, 20%peas)

Oats is a fairly simple grain to grow.  Wheat is easier than barley.  Jack likes the straw from oats and they have the highest fat small grain that he’s grown.  He’s also grown hulless oats but is switching back to regular oats… the grains are plumper, whiter.  For feed they are great mixed with peas or with wheat and peas.  Wheat will help the oats and peas stand up.

They grew a barley pea mix last year which produced an 18% protein grain mix.

They interseed clover, don’t over fertilize the light feeders, don’t use soluble fertility because it promotes weed growth (don’t use manure.  Do use compost)

Weed Control:
Early planting
Use a tine weeder pre emergence or 5 to 6 leaf stage.

Disease issues?
Fusarium head blights = micotoxins
Ergot – he usually finds this in rye grain.

Ripening grains:
Milk to soft dough to hard dough
Straw changes from green to yellow
Bite on a piece of grain (hard, cracking)
Harvesting:  yields of 1500 to 4000 lbs (avg 2000)
13% for storage but might have to harvest at 15 to 16% and dry it down
Winter grain harvest is late July to early august
Spring grains is mid to late august

Rye with a sweet clover under seeded.  Fall seeded rye and then spring seeded sweet clover (late march/early April) as a frost seeding.

Winter wheat is best planted before mid September.

Cereal grains are often planted after beans but has also planted into fall plowed hay sod.

Jack adds lime and wood ash along with compost for his spring seedings.

Jack also needs straw for his bedded pack which is another benefit if his grain growing.

Direct harvest vs swathing

Swath when in the dough stage

Dry 3 to 5 days

Is a way to deal with a weedy grain crop

Produces higher quality grain crop

Inexpensive storage

  • Improvisational storage:  plywood bins if frame is strong enough
  • Make sure it is really dry before storing it
  • Make shift bin aeration with drainage pipe and furnace blower
  • Aerators into gravity wagons
  • Burlap bag tunnel with fan
  • Hopper bottom grain bin storage – aeration is possible

Necessary equipment:

  • Moisture tester $400 to $600
    • Dole Radson
    • Dickey John
  • Swather $500 to $2000
    • Pull Type
    • Self Propelled
    • Quebec, Ontario, Midwest, new York
  • Combine $2000 to $20,000
    • Fastline Magazine
    • Yves Brunet, Lacolle.  This is a good source for parts too.
    • Reitzel Bros. Edon, Ohio 419-272 2680
    • Inspect machine before purchase
    • Custom hire $70 to $80 per hour
  • Gravity Wagons $800 to $1500
    • Be sure to check the running gear and check for rust
  • Flat Bottom Aeration Storage
    • New $5000 to $6000
    • Used $500 to $1500
    • Les equipment in pike river Quebec 4504843383
    • RAD Equipment St Hyacyth 8887962722
  • Corn Crib:  long narrow better than round.  Build your own
  • Corn Picker $1000
  • Batch Grain Dryer $2000 or less
  • Rotary seed cleaners $2000 to $3000
  • Grinder Mixer $2000 to $25,000
    • Artsway, Iowa 7128643131
    • JR Harris, IL 2174784341
  • Or a stationary hammermill or mix-mill stationary grinder
    • AT Ferrel Indiana 2608243400

The handout from this presentation is available from Heather Darby.

Earl Fournier:  Swanton

Transitioned to organic from a conventional non grazing system.  They are more profitable now but Earl said this is mainly due to how they manage and feed their cows not because of the organic milk price.

They don’t grow corn and didn’t before they went organic either.  Their focus is on high quality grasses/legume crops.  They feed about 70% or higher forage in the ration.  Their herd average is now a little over 20,000 lbs.  It did drop much lower when they first transitioned to organic, particularly when the cows were adjusting to a pasture system.  They are now crossing some jersey into the herd too.

They now intensively graze 80 milking cows on approximately 100 acres. All the pasture land that they graze now was tiled highly productive cropland before it was fenced for pasture.  In addition to pasture, they store forages, haylage, balage and dry hay from an additional 165 acres (both owned and rented).

The Fournier’s feed a summer ration of dry hay, balage, and 14 pounds of grain. He is trying to move away from feeding any haylage in the summer.  During the winter months, the herd receives haylage, dry hay, and up to 15 pounds of grain per day.  They supplement the feed year-round with trace minerals and kelp.  Earl’s forages typically produce good protein levels, between 18 and 22 percent.

Earl developed his grazing system on some of his highest quality cropland when he converted from non-organic confinement dairy to a grass based organic system.  With the help of NRCS cost sharing programs, he was able to invest in grazing infrastructure, which includes gravel lanes, high tensile fences, and water piped to every paddock.  His pastureland is a mix of perennial ryegrass, orchard grass, Kentucky blue grass, festolium, red clover, and white clover.  He grazes his hay fields, and seeds them with a mix of brome, timothy, meadow fescue, orchard grass, alfalfa, and red clover.  He has also tried grazing some BMR sorghum-Sudan grass.

Earl begins grazing his herd on about 35 acres of pasture in the spring and by the end of the grazing season, on about 80 acres with the milking group, plus another 20 acres for heifers and dry cows.  He also sends 25 heifers to a certified organic custom grazing farm during the summer, and keeps his dry cows and some other heifers in a separate grazing rotation near the barn.

The pasture is fenced into 1.2 acre paddocks, which Earl subdivides with polywire depending on herd size and amount of feed in the pasture.  His strip grazing method allows him to give the cows fresh pasture three times a day, encouraging good grazing.

The Fournier’s turn cows into the pasture when the forage is about 10 inches tall or taller, and clip the pastures after grazing several times each year to reduce rejected forage and mature grass.  Earl calculated that feeding the cows in the summer reduces the time and cost of feed by half compared to the winter; he figures it is easier to make more money on grass even if you are making less milk.  He also feels it is better for the cows in the end.  They start grazing in early may and usually start grazing just days in October.

If Earl were to transition to grazing over again, he would immediately cut the haylage out of the TMR to help the cows start grazing more efficiently.  Once he switched from haylage to dry hay and balage, the system worked much better.

The Fournier’s heavily incorporate cover crops into their crop rotation and plant them in the spring and summer.  Earl examines his soil’s mineral balances and applies lime, sulfur magnesium, boron, and zinc when needed. He currently spreads a light application of manure from his liquid manure lagoon three times a year.

Earl is using a no till drill to do fall seedings.  He uses a heavy seeding rate of about 15 lbs per acre of perennial ryegrass into a pasture and as high as 30 lbs in a new seeding.  The perennial ryegrass is overwintering well in its mixed in with the other species and is still persisting.

Brent & Regina Beidler

Camellina Seed, making camellina oil for sale to human market and feeding the meal t his cows. Camelina meal tested at 32% protein. Camellina has a particular flavor to it (brocolli-ish), presses nicely. Harvested 600 lbs off of ½ acre. Learning curve is very steep and lost a lot of seed (est 60-80 gallons to acre).

Quite a bit of Camellina grown in Montana. Not genetically modified. Unfortunately, since that time, Montana has stepped up and a biotech company and a biodiesel company has stepped up and created a GMO camellina crop and have a number of growers lined up. Cross pollination: 20 mile range. Energy value was .70. Could you graze camellina? Don’t know… never heard of it as being grazed.

Grain drier: Yes, has a very simple aerator (cost $250) which is basically a tube that goes into the bin and a fan draws the air into the bin and exhausts it.  B&W manufacturing in Iowa  is the source of grain driers.

Millet crop grows about 6 feet high, the yield is ____ t/a and the straw is used for bedding.

Coud easily grow themselves; favorite summer annual crop. Grazing Japaneze millet as well as harvesting for grain (summer annual), 25# to acre, adapted to a wet year. Roll, drilled in (brillion seeder ) and packing behind. Typically go in when the millet is 2 feet tall, rotationally graze to break  it up. Cows can conume a large amount of forage very quikly and in the PM grazing, go to a perennial pasture. Insurance: if they need the pasture they will graze it and if they need additional harvested forages, will harvest it.. Also does well as a green manure.

Uses small grains to extend the grazing season and

Grow Rye after the Japanese millet in the rotation. Drill in rye after harvesting the millet. Rye is not as palatable, but makes a lot of nice straw. At end of the year, cut bedding costs in half. Sold the Rye seed.

Dan and Joanne Tilley.  Certified organic since 1999 in Hoosick NY.  They produce organic milk and beef  and raise their own forages, corn silage and corn.  They buy some corn and soybeans.

In winter they feed 12 lbs corn with some purchased soybean mixed in, 30 lbs corn silage 40 lbs haylage and 6 to 8 lbs hay.  In summer they feed mostly pasture and supplement with 25 lbs corn silage, 2 lbs dry hay and slightly less grain than in the winter ration.  They feed a 1:5 grain/milk ratio.  Pastures are intensively managed, providing cows with a new paddock after every milking.  Milk production is about 15,000 lbs/year.

Crop rotation on the farm is 2 years corn followed by 4 years of alfalfa/clover/grass.  Grain corn is grown the first year and clover or winter rye is seeding into the corn in July.  This allows them to grow corn for silage the next year.  They always have a cover crop in between the two years of corn.

He feels that if you can grow grain on the farm it can help you save money on feed costs but does require extra time and investment and corn is a big feeder so you need manure to make it pay.  He’s using chicken manure now instead of organic corn starter.  He keeps the soil calcium levels up and feels that may be helping keep weed pressure low.

Shell corn yield averages are 3 to 3.7 tons/acre and corn silage averages 15 to 17 tons/acre.  The shell corn is combined in December to give it time to dry down.  He doesn’t own his own combine so it is custom harvested.  Corn is stored in a tin grain bid with fans to prevent spoilage.   He stores it in these bins at a neighbors farm and brings home loads and grinds and mixes them at his own farm.  He grinds enough for 2 weeks at a time and this takes 1 ½ to 2 hours.  The soybean they buy in is already roasted

Joe Hescock

Shoreham Vermont.  They milk around 160 cows and finish 50 hogs each year and try to grow all of their own grains and forages.  They did buy some soybean meal this year.  They grow around 250 acres of grain and have a total of 1100 acres of pasture, forage and grain land.  Soils are heavy clay and they use a very long rotation.  They grow winter wheat, barley, mixed grains (small grains with peas), soybeans, corn and grass/legume forages.  They store their corn as whole ear corn and grind it whole.  He has his own combine and stores and grinds all the grain on the farm.  They have a hammer mill and a grinder/mixer.  Yields of grain/acre has varied.  Was over 2 ton/acre in 2007 and over 1 ½ per acre for barley and peas.  He also grows a lot of cover crops and the straw is part of the crop too.  Last year they grew all their own bedding for the packs.  Barley doesn’t do well in wet conditions.  Wheat handles it better.  He saves all his own small grain seeds.  Soybeans are grown after corn and no additional fertility is added when beans are planted.  Soybeans require that the soils be totally stone free.  They buy in hen manure for the cornland.  That is mixed with dairy manure and used on the corn land.  They also use a lot of plowed