Running a profitable dairy in the 21 superscript st century is nothing like running a dairy ten, or even five, years ago. It takes expertise from all quarters. In-depth knowledge of genetics, nutrition, animal health, production, marketing, and business management make the difference. It can be overwhelming to do all it takes to get the highest quality and quantity of milk for the greatest cost efficiency. Feed is the single-most expense a dairymen faces. And it is a key component in dairy profitability. In Washington state, dairymen look to Williamson Farms for feed expertise. Williamson Farms is a producer of top quality dairy feed. They deliver feed stored in Ag-Bag[R] bags (such as corn silage and high moisture ear corn or earlage, small grain silages, and alfalfa haylage) to area dairies. Their business is solely about raising, harvesting, storing, and delivering the best possible forages for dairy cows.
Williamson Farms grows 80% of what they sell to the dairies. The balance is purchased standing in the field from neighboring farms. All the commodities are delivered separately, but the haylages are blended to ensure a consistent product. "We blend the haylage based on independent lab results for protein and ADF and our own moisture testing at the time of blending," said owner Eric Williamson. "We look solely at what is appropriate for a dairy blend and achieve those results."
A consistent product is the key to cows eating their ration, according to Williamson. Their customers report a 2-3 lb. per cow per day increase in milk production and attribute it to the bagged feed consistency. "We have dairies that milk 90 lbs. plus on a year-round basis," he said. "The dairymen doing the best are feeding a consistent high quality ration." The consistency is most important with the bagged haylage because each cutting may test differently. Williamson said haylage is where bagging shines because you can identify each cutting and place it where it will have the best results.
Williamson Farms inoculates all of their low sugar crops and never puts up haylage without inoculants. "I believe there is clear benefit to inoculated feed," said Williamson. "Inoculating gives a faster more consistent fermentation. Inoculated feed gives higher production. Our perspective is that the better the fermentation, the more efficiently the animal uses the feed. Our customers have done so well with it, we have never wanted to not inoculate the feed."
Williamson Farms delivers the bagged feed to each dairy as they need it. The drivers monitor the feed stored at each dairy and attempt to deliver the next load just prior to running out from the previous load. Their customers use independent nutritionists to develop their herd's rations. Williamson Farms delivers to their commodity sheds and the producers use a scale to fill their mixer with a particular commodity. It is then mixed and fed.
According to Williamson, there are three limiting factors to milk production. The first is physically how much a cow can consume. The second is the quality of the feed they eat. The third is the genetics of the cow. Williamson's customers find adding quality bagged haylage increases production. Haylage is more palatable, so the cows consume more resulting in increased production.
One of Williamson's customers, before using their feed, was struggling with profitability. Today, with the combination of superior genetics and high-powered feed, the dairy consistently milks more than 90 lbs. per cow per day.
Another dairy, before they became a customer of Williamson Farms, fed silage and earlage. Williamson encouraged them to try adding bagged haylage to their herd's ration. Today they will tell you "the only way to buy feed is out of a bag."
Williamson Farms delivers feed for 10,000 cows per day. Those dairies benefit from feed financed on a monthly basis, having no inventory to maintain, and freed-up management time. "They have more milk and fewer headaches," said Williamson. "Their herd health is improved, fewer DAs, less acidosis, and a higher forage and lower grain ration is easier on the rumen. All in all, producers who feed a mix of bagged haylage, corn silage and earlage have the best production results."