The Manager - March 2019

Ahead of the curve. Keys to next-level forage management.

Better than average: Helpful tips for using the nutrient mass balance from a long-term user

An interview with Meghan Hauser, Table Rock Farm

Dairy farm nutrient mass balances (NMBs) are gaining traction in some parts of the U.S. and the European Union is considering widespread use on farms. This series offers an in depth overview, including on-farm experience.

Want to be better than average? Use dairy farm nutrient mass balances to improve performance

By Mart Ros, Karl Czymmek and Quirine Ketterings

With so many challenges in the dairy industry today, farm managers realize they need to be “better than average” to be in business for the long-term. Running a whole-farm nutrient mass balance (NMB) can help achieve this. The NMB assessment software and interpretation of results developed by the Cornell University Nutrient Management Spear Program can quickly evaluate a farm NMB. Tracking trends in NMBs for farms over the past 10 years in New York shows that farmers who calculate their whole-farm NMB each year tend to improve their balances over time. More farms meet the feasibility benchmarks now than in early years, illustrating that improvements can and are being made.

Better than average: Feasible balances for dairy farms that produce most forage needs

By Mart Ros, Karl Czymmek and Quirine Ketterings

Key performance indicators, such as milk urea nitrogen, ration nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) levels, corn stalk nitrate testing, and soil fertility assessments are only useful if we know what to strive for. Similarly, feasibility ranges are needed for whole farm nutrient mass balances (NMBs) as a key performance indicator of nutrient use efficiency at the whole-farm level. In New York, such targets, or feasible balances, were determined for the NMB per acre cropland and the NMB per hundredweight (cwt) of milk produced, based on NMB data from 102 New York dairies. Feasible balances per acre were set at the third quartile of the farm distribution. In other words: if three out of four New York dairy farms operate at or below this NMB, it should be feasible for the fourth farm to also do so. For the balance per cwt farms were divided in two groups, those below and those above, the average balance per cwt for all farms.

Cornell sorghum variety and establishment

By Tom Kilcer

Sorghum, mainly a crop of the deep south, is being planted on more acres across the northeast. Originally relegated as an emergency summer feed when earlier crops had failed, or for part-time livestock farms, the crop is going mainstream because of the number of economic and practical advantages it offers. The sorghum species is supported by major breeding programs and has a huge, diverse genetic base. This allows tailoring to a wide range of needs and conditions. With New York Farm Viability Institute support we researched best management practices and varieties for north of the Mason-Dixon line.

On-farm instant quality analysis

By J.H. Cherney and D.J. Cherney

Near infrared reflectance (NIR) spectroscopy has been used to evaluate forage quality since the early 1980s. Until recently, these were relatively sensitive, large laboratory instruments that required finely-ground, dry forage samples for analysis. New technology has allowed the development of small, hand-held NIR units that can work with wet, chopped forage or silage.

Exploring the relationship between physically effective and undigested fiber

By Rick Grant and Wyatt Smith

Recent research at Miner Institute has focused on the relationship between undigested and physically effective NDF (abbreviated as uNDF and peNDF). Physically effective NDF is commonly measured using the 4-mm screen in the Penn State Particle Separator and uNDF is measured as the undigested NDF following 240 hours of in vitro fermentation. Both of these measures are highly useful in the field because they allow us to do a much better job of predicting the cow’s response to NDF. How dietary fiber particle size and digestibility interact to affect the chewing, intake, and productive responses of the cow is a hot topic among nutritionists.

Controlling compaction: Do’s and don’ts

By Peter Wright and Joe Lawrence

Farming is ever-changing and improvements to perform timely field operations can impact soil health. Larger, road-ready trucks and equipment with higher tire pressures and larger axle loads made to spread manure, plant, spray and harvest quicker can cause severe soil compaction. Predicted wetter seasons and the need to maximize crop yields and forage quality increases the time pressure for field operations.

Bunker silo and silage pile safety

By Julie Berry

People are the greatest resource on a farm. Accidents are never planned, but those few minutes can have long-lasting and traumatic impact. Proactive steps can help reduce risk during corn silage harvest and feed-out.