Strive for G.O.A.T Status
Being a typical Midwesterner, I love football Sundays and cheering on my favorite team. Football teaches and fosters several disciplines that I can relate to and admire, such as practice and game-planning to ensure success. So, what does this have to do with feeding cows and making your dairy better? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is your dairy’s feeder, how important that job is and whether that person is getting the proper training and education to make them successful. Did you know that Tom Brady, arguably the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) to play football, after his 7th Super Bowl last February went back to practicing on his plant foot and elbow position just two months after that win? G.O.A.T.’s know that practicing the basics are the most important things to make them successful and perform at a high level.
This idea rose to the top of my mind when our GPS team hosted a series of Feeder Schools across the upper Midwest as part of our exclusive FeedFIT™ program. It’s so critical that we continue to work with our feeders on fundamental practices because it is these things that will truly make them great. At GPS, we have organized these fundamental practices into our World Class Feeding Management Goals that are the center piece of everything we do with our feeders. We have identified 11 goals that we feel are most important when training and evaluating feeders. For the sake of this blog, I am not going to go through all 11 but do want to highlight 1.
Goal 4 is to routinely check forage dry matters at minimum once per week. This sounds like a very simple and easy goal, right? Well, unfortunately, it gets overlooked all too often because it doesn’t get the credit it deserves… and it takes time! Most people who do it on farm routinely will use a koster tester (pictured). It does a great job of accurately checking dry matter. The negative is that it will take an hour by the time you weigh the sample and let it cook down. The good news is that there are newer NIR (near-infrared spectroscopy) devices that can measure dry matter within a few minutes of putting your sample in the device – very handy! These NIR devices have come a long way in accuracy and will continue to get better. And, there are other ways as well, like sending samples to a lab or investing in your own forage oven.
The reason it is so important to be tracking dry matters closely is that it impacts the as-fed amount cows get every day since we formulate diets on dry matter pounds. So, if you have a milk cow batch that calls for 10,000# of corn silage at 34%DM, but it rained last night and it is actually 31%DM and you don’t account for the added moisture, then you are going to under feed corn silage by almost 1000#! Thus, cows are likely going to run out of feed several hours before the next feeding and slug eat when new feed is dropped, which can negatively affect production and health. I recommend making a 2%DM adjustment down for corn silage and a 3%DM decrease for haylage when rain or heavy snow events happen. The best practice would be to cook down the sample while feeding that morning to get the real value before having all cows fed.
To be the Greatest Of All Time when it comes to feeding cows, you have to be relentless at doing the basic things right and not overlook them! I am fortunate to work with many very talented feeders on a weekly basis, but opportunities like our GPS Feeder School helps highlight that. Even though you may be really good at what you do, there is always opportunity to improve and work on your craft.