In this day and age when many dairies hire their crop work done, Regancrest Holsteins’ strategy is to devote a brother – Bill Regan – to it.
He and three of his siblings each manage an aspect of the farm located 20 miles from Decorah, IA, just outside of Waukon. While he oversees the crops, Frank is in charge of the herd’s breeding and genetics; Charles, the milking parlor; and Ronnie, the feeding.
“Last fall we also brought in the younger generation: Frank’s sons, Brian and Sean; his daughter, Sheri (Danhof); and Charles’ son, Mitch,” Bill Regan says. Other relatives are also heavily involved in the dairy and youngstock rearing.
Regancrest is known for its registered Holstein herd; genetics sales make up a good percentage of its income.
To maintain these valuable animals and its 25,000- to 26,000-lb/cow milk production average, the dairy produces quality forage, says Dan Bergin of Land O’Lakes Feeds/Farmers Co-op, Caledonia, MN. The dairy’s nutritionist for a quarter of a century, he says its alfalfa haylage consistently tests from 150 to 250 relative feed value.
“The worst of it is still excellent, excellent feed,” he says. “They usually have top-notch alfalfa and corn silage. They’re really good about getting their feed put up on time.”
The dairy, which will host the June 19-20 Farm Progress Hay Expo sponsored in part by Hay & Forage Grower, was established in 1951 by the brothers’ parents, William and Angella. By 1969, when they expanded from 60 cows to 150, the farmers also moved from small square and round bales to largely haylage.
Today, with a 675-cow herd that may go from twice- to three-times-a-day milking, crop manager Bill Regan’s challenge is to produce all the feed he can on limited acres.
He and his cropping crew, which includes Brian, Sean and Mitch, raise 600 acres of alfalfa, including 150 acres of new seedings planted with an oats nurse crop. Most of the alfalfa is chopped every 28 days and put in bunkers. Another 1,000 acres are planted to corn, half of which is chopped at 55-65% moisture.
“If we get it at the right moisture level, we can cut it pretty coarse and still get it to pack well. If it gets too dry, we have to start shortening up our cut,” Regan says. He and his nephews are also looking into Shredlage, a new silage corn processing method that shreds plants at a longer length of cut (see our Shredlage stories at hayandforage.com under “Hot Topics”).
Another 300 acres of soybeans are grown, but that acreage will likely grow smaller as more forage is needed.
Almost all of the dry hay fed is purchased – and of medium quality. “We have good haylage so we can get by with buying average hay, and then we’re strictly using it as a fiber additive to the ration,” Regan explains.
Typically, says Bergin, who checks rations every Tuesday, the dairy feeds 55-65% forage, usually half of which is haylage and half corn silage. High-moisture corn, distillers grains, whole cottonseed, soybean meal and straw, as well as hay, make up most of the rest of the ration.
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This past fall, about 35 acres of corn stubble were seeded to winter rye. “We hope to harvest it and use it for dry cow feed and heifer feed,” Regan says.
But its main purpose is as a cover crop, he stresses.
“We’re rolling country. We have one farm where we have some land that’s considered non-highly erodible – where we could plant corn on corn on corn if we want to. But everything is usually stripped and we have corn-hay rotations through most of the fields.”
Fertilizer management is taken seriously. Soils tests are run on a quarter of the Regans’ cropland each year, and liquid manure from the dairy is spread on older alfalfa stands, chopped corn ground and on harvested soybean acres. Phosphorus and sulfur levels are managed on alfalfa ground, which is also treated for potato leafhoppers.
About 120 acres of Regancrest land have been designated for Hay Expo, most of which will be used for demonstrations of the newest forage harvesting equipment available.
Regan, who can name most of the farms that have hosted the Expo in recent years, has been working to bring it to Waukon for four years.
“I like to go to them. I enjoy them. I think it will bring a lot of people to the community,” he says. Because of their genetics business, the Regans are used to busloads of tourists. So the two-day event won’t be too much of an interruption of the farm’s normal business, he believes.
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