Cliff Hawbaker is also converting his 300-cow home farm from twice to once-a-day milking. But he's learned a few tricks from his satellite farm.
For instance, Hawbaker, from Chambersburg, PA, has already arranged with neighbors to pro-vide first hay cuttings as drought insurance.
He's also working to better match his land's grazing capacity to the size of his cows. A number of his 1,500-lb Holsteins will be sold to other dairies to make room for smaller crossbreds averaging around 1,100 lbs.
“We want enough animals and the size of that paddock so the animals harvest the crop within a 24-hour period and then it gets rested 20 or 28 days depending on the drought or plant species or whatever. We're not trying to harvest the maximum amount of milk that a cow can produce. This is a different philosophy. With this we're milking our acres.”
Currently, his 300-cow herd is divided into spring and fall herds grazing 210 acres of mostly orchardgrass mixed with ryegrass, clovers, bluegrass and festulolium. Another 100 acres of hay on land he can't pasture are harvested.
“We have the spring herd calved in and they're milking well, about 47-48 lbs,” Hawbaker said in May. His hired man starts milking them at 9 a.m. and is done by early afternoon.
This dairy's ration includes 10% molasses and minerals and 90% forage with corn silage as part of the equation. He's kept with 10% corn silage because the home-farm cows average 300 lbs heavier than the others and need the energy.
“But it's a purchased commodity,” Hawbaker says. “Traditionally, corn silage was economical. Now it's not, so is this the year to bring it in or let hay be king? Do I bring cow weights down or maybe bring the number (of cows) down?” he rhetorically asks. The dairyman is already paying 25% more for corn silage than he paid last year and his growers “hem and haw” about continuing to supply him with the forage, he says.
But at this point he'll continue to feed it, in part to compare production between the two herds.