Much of 2004’s first alfalfa cutting was harvested late and/or got rained on after it was cut. So many dairy producers face major challenges in feeding low-quality haylage.

University of Wisconsin extension dairy specialists and county agents list these recommendations:

  • Test first-crop forage to assess its crude protein, bypass protein and energy content. A forage test developed by the University of Wisconsin to assess the bypass protein content of legume forages is available. Check with your forage lab for details.
  • Based on forage-test results, adjust the level and source of protein supplementation in the diet.
  • Based on forage-test results, increase the amount of grain fed to adjust ration fiber and energy as needed. Add a buffer to the ration when feeding higher levels of grain. Consider feeding yeast culture.
  • Dilute low-quality haylage with corn silage. You may need to adjust your corn silage inventory plans this fall to accommodate this feeding strategy through the winter months. Be sure to adjust grain levels as the amount of corn silage increases in the diet.
  • Consider replacing low-quality haylage with 4-6 lbs of whole cottonseed/cow/day.
  • Dilute low-quality haylage with higher-quality haylage as it becomes available.
  • Target poor-quality forages to low-producing cows, dry cows and replacement heifers.
  • Fine-grind corn to increase energy availability.
  • If body condition is a problem, increase supplemental fat in the ration when possible.
  • Evaluate mold and mycotoxin levels and dilute, discard or redirect affected forages as needed. This is especially true of forage that was rained on and laid in the field for an extended period. Many of these windrows showed significant levels of spoilage prior to harvest. Unlike the recent past, commodity grain and protein prices are higher than average. Nonetheless, these ration adjustments must be made based on forage quality.

Finally, plan to harvest corn silage at the appropriate maturity and moisture to ensure the best-quality forage possible.