Consulting in pairs, 24 crop and dairy educators and industry partners will work with 24 producers to improve corn silage management and feed management of forages. 6 educators will present results in workshop settings reaching 300 consultants and 200 producers. 100 producers managing 10,000 corn silage acres will implement at least one recommended corn silage or forage feed management decision tool.
The educational approach for this project has been a combination of individual farm visits, hands-on workshops for the financials, presentation style to a large group, webinars, popular press, and emails.
1. 60 educators and appropriate industry partners receive invitations via an on-line survey regarding the project proposal, objectives, preliminary data, and willingness to work with both a partner and 2 producers for one year October 2015
Our team held face to face meetings across the state to review this project. The majority of the audience was producers. We did have a few nutritionists and crop consultants meet with us, however, that was more on an individual basis. We are communicating with 69 people on this project. Emailing folks seems to be the preferred method of communication. We have one producer who does not have email and the educators are making regular visits to collect the information.
- Several tools have been developed to assist our producers in recording their information. In addition we have developed the financial balance sheets and cash flow forms to track income and expenses.
30 respondents complete an on-line survey about current level of knowledge and learning needs related to crops, feed and financials. December 2015 - January 2016
Currently collecting signatures for the project via the MOU and doing a face to face assessment versus an on-line survey. Producers feel more comfortable with this approach.
Signatures have been collected and include the producer, nutritionist and crop advisor. Our team members have met face to face with crop consultants and their number one challenge working with nutritionists relates to the various corn silage hybrids.The nutritionists are not examining starch and/or starch digestibility on a regular basis and this has implications to the ration formulated. The focus is on yield and not considering the other attributes. In the face to face meetings with nutritionists, there is a lack of understanding related to the whole farm financial analysis. Our Crops to Cow to Cash program was developed for nutritionists as the key audience to evaluate the whole farm system. The team is currently in discussion with the crop consultants to conduct an educational program for their sales force on determining the cost to produce home raised feeds and the impact of corn silage quality on dairy cattle nutrition.
Based on our crops to cow to cash workshop for consultants (12), there is a major gap in knowledge related to the financials. The challenge is obtaining the required information from the producer and determining if the information is complete and accurate. The time commitment has been significant taking at a minimum 2 days and 5 hours each day to collect all the needed information. This has been a frustration for the consultants.
For presentations to consultants regarding financials, they are struggling with accessing the big picture and tend to focus on minutiae. They also want to fixate on one single metric regarding forage quality or the ration and our data is supporting the fact that this does not guarantee high level of animal performance or profitability.
3. 25 of the 30 respondents commit to the requirements of this project and will attend a face to face workshop located appropriately geographically to learn the curriculum and tools available to work with producers. March – April 2016
On April 23, the core crop and dairy team members met to develop the curriculum for workshop presentations. The team developed the MOU for producers, crop consultants and nutritionists. A representative from Pioneer seed attended to gain his input.
The first workshop was held on August 26 with 22 crop and dairy educators and 3 NRCS folks attending.
A second workshop was held on November 11 with 54 crop consultants and nutritionists attending.
Met with Bill Sutliff from Mycogen Seeds on May 14 to describe our project and sent him a copy of the MOU. He is currently soliciting farms for the project.
I met with Tammy Weaver and Gene Schurman on Aug 4 to describe our project and sent them a copy of the MOU.
On September 8 I had a conference call with Amy Hoy from Hubner Seed about our Crops to Cow project. She has committed 10 farms to the project on top of the 24 farms budgeted in the grant. I sent her the MOU, the checklist and the cost of sampling so she can budget accordingly.
Corresponded with Dave Kehr with Mycogen Seeds on Oct 2 about our project and has submitted the MOU on 3 farms and have their commitment.
Met with Dale Miller from Agri-Basics on October 14 to discuss the project crops to cow. He was sent a copy of the MOU.
I corresponded with 2 dairy producers who have filled out the MOU and have and will complete the checklist on cropping and feeding management.
Other team members are meeting with producers and their advisors to explain the project, collect information, get signatures on the MOU and take a corn silage and TMR sample. This is occurring on 19 farms from September- December.
On December 8 presented to 40 producers on our project hosted by Farm Credit.
On December 15 presented to 62 producers on the project in Lancaster, which was hosted by Hubner seed.
On December 16 presented to 43 producers and 7 nutritionists about the preliminary data we have collected so far and the new project being started.
4. A minimum of 12 educators and industry partners will participate in 4 follow-up webinars to review resource materials, criteria for soliciting farms and collecting information from producers. May 2016 - July 2016
We had four webinars scheduled. March 18 – Financials; April 8 – BMPS for crops and feeding; August 5 – CS harvest; and Dec 2 – Feeding management. There have been approximately 10 people on the live presentation but others have reviewed the recorded sessions. Emails are sent out reviewing key points from the webinars.
The majority of the attendees on the webinars have been the dairy producer. Consultants like the face to face type meetings. Many of the farms have profit teams so the consultants are getting the information on data collection and results at the profit team meetings, or via phone conversation, or by emails.
During the financial webinar filling out a balance sheet, income statement, income over feed cost were covered. BMPS for crops and feeding reviewed the checklists that were developed for this project to capture details related to planting, tasseling, and harvest. The corn silage harvest webinar discussed the drought conditions in Pennsylvania and the extreme variation in corn silage quality that might occur. We asked if producers would take pictures of their corn silage at time of harvest so we can compare to the corn silage analysis. Details about the corn silage and total mixed ration sampling was reviewed. The feeding management webinar reviewed the data collected to date related to the change in fiber and starch digestibility from fall to spring, the variability in dry matter intake on farms with similar milk production and compared to the formulated ration.
5. 24 farms start the project and the appropriate data collected. August 2016
25 farms have started the project which actually started back in March 2016 (collecting some financials and cropping info).
Each farm has a nutritionist (25) and some farms are their own crop advisor so there are 19 independents. However, interaction on training is more with the leaders of the seed companies, Mycogen, Pioneer, Hubner, King Agri-seed. The leaders are interacting with the project more so than the field staff. They all are included in the exchange of information but the seed company leaders are the ones involved in requesting us to train their folks or to talk with their producers. This has the ripple effect of reaching more than the folks tied directly to this project.
Twenty-four farms (one farm is going out of business) have completed their cash flow plan, their income over feed cost, completed all the crop checklists, provided corn pictures of their various hybrids and fields, and are currently sending in their corn silage samples for nutrient analysis, processing score, particle size, total mixed ration analysis, particle size, pounds of milk shipped, information for calculating dry matter intake and the details of the ration being fed to the lactating cows. They will also submit a copy of their milk check to assess milk price, components and quality premiums.
At the end of September 2017 all twenty four farms have a completed FinPack analysis, completed IOFC to date, all corn silage and TMR analyses have been sampled and collected. All rations have been submitted.
2. Example pictures that producers took during harvest
3. Example checklist filled out
4. Results from the transition year. Corn silage NDF and Starch can vary substantially from fall and spring on some farms.
5. There are wide swings in fiber and starch digestibility. Our data shows that starch digestibility is not trending like refereed research shows. In fact, we are seeing the trend being the complete opposite, where starch digestibility is substantially lower in the spring vs. fall. Capturing cropping details on these 25 farms should help explain why this is occurring.
6. TMR intakes matching formulated rations and how they compare across farms with similar production. Some farms have very good agreement with the formulated diet, others are way off. In the official start of the project we will be comparing the nutrient specifications of the formulated diet and the actual analysis. We will also be comparing particle size of the TMR.
Twenty-four farms have completed the first year of sampling, which occurred from November 2016 through September 2017. The data set is completed for these twenty-four farms.
6. A minimum of 12 educators and industry partners will participate in 4 webinars to review farm data and share successes and challenges in the three curriculum areas. September 2016 – August 2017
Our participants seem to prefer emails and face to face. Several producers have profit teams so the producer, nutritionist and crop consultant meet routinely with our educator as the facilitator/specialist. Others visit the farms routinely to review results, others communicate via email. We have been sharing the results through emails and attachments. Several of the consultants have attended our workshops to learn more about the tools we have to offer. Results have included pictures of the corn silage across the state and how variable it is. Farms are doing their monthly income over feed cost, which they are sharing during their profit team meetings.
Several of the consultants have attended our workshops to learn more about the tools we have to offer. We held a workshop at the Penn State Dairy Cattle Nutrition conference to conduct a hands-on workshop to determine the costs to produce home raised feeds and how this provides the true income over feed cost for the producer. Twenty-five consultants attended and utilized the newly developed pdf fillable forms.
Throughout the summer of 2016 we have been sharing information from the project as we go along. We have 2017 dates reserved for the face to face meetings: Feb 14, 15, 21, 22; April 4, 5, 11, 12. We have also developed a curriculum specifically for consultants – Crops to Cow to Cash. The dates are January 24, April 26, September 12 and January 2018.
In February 2017 our group met with the producers to complete their 2016 cash flows and do a projection of 2017. Follow-up meetings occurred to complete the FinPack analysis of the 24 farms. In April 2017, both consultants and producers were invited for a brunch meeting to share the results of the financials (producers received their individual results) and the rest got the group analysis as well as the results to date on corn silage quality, agreement with the actual TMR and the formulated diet as well as dry matter intake agreement.
During the various sampling periods (December 2016 – April 2017) and April 2017 – September 2017) producers and/or the nutritionist responded to problems in feeding management (poor agreement). Several of the producers had their mixers checked and found problems with the scales or mixing apparatus. The grant paid to resample the TMR and there was improved agreement as well as an increase in animal performance.
Comments from participants:
Comments from participants on corn silage and TMR analysis:
1.The starch percent and digestibility between cs samples may due to hybrid differences which may be why we see something different from our expectations.
2. Our corn silage samples came from 2 different varieties and the initial sample was Pioneer 2088 which I was told has particularly bad starch values after harvest. I was not aware of that prior to this project.
3. Discovering that the TMR analysis did not match the calculated levels was very beneficial to the operation.
4. Our farm needs to improve in almost every category. First, I go over our kernel processor every year. I just rebuilt it 2 years ago (total rebuild) and we still cannot achieve highest standards for kernel processing. Therefore we cannot implement a change. More immediately we are making changes to the ration and feed storage. A higher corn silage diet is our goal and we are already achieving this, increasing from 18 to 22.5 dry mAtter pounds of corn silage. We are also working on our fermented feed base, not only on corn silage but high moisture shelled corn as well. I don’t feel that we will be make any changes to our hybrid selections however. We feed mostly bmr and are satisfied with the results from that.
5.The biggest change will be in product selection. If there is a variety that has poor feed values soon after harvest, we will either not use that variety or put it in the silo first so it has time to ferment before it is fed, in order to get the most out of it.
6. We were in a severe drought last year and therefore results were off.
What changes did you or do you plan to implement as a result of the project?
1 Higher corn silage in the dairy ration, increased from 18 to 22.5 dry matter pounds. Increased fermented feed base
2 We plant less varieties. Focus on kernel processing. Understand better what practical expectations are for forage evaluations
3 Increasing corn silage in diet
4 marked in the upright silo variety changes and resampled whenever we got to the change
5 changed nitogen application, tightened the proseser roles on the harvester, custom hire larger packing tractor
6 We have intensified the management of corn silage harvest including packing, particle length, and processing. We have also worked on increasing the silage inventory.
7 We have not made any wide sweeping changes at this point. The biggest change is just making sure we plant varieties that should not be fed right away, first so that they can be chopped and put on the bottom of the silo.
8 Monitoring more closely the relationship between paper ration and cow side ration. Monitoring particle size of ration on a more regular basis.
9 Already adjusted the ration based on TMR results Discussing the KP scores was also helpful
10 Use cost of production and cost of homegrown feeds to determine what to grow.
11 Keep a closer eye on the forage harvester.
13 The biggest change was investigating the discrepancy between TMR analysis and calculated
levels. Processing score was important to prepare for this year’s harvest. The analyses were useful immediately in ration formulation.
Besides milk price, what do you see as the biggest challenge to achieving reasonable cost of production in the next year?
1 Milk Basis being inforced
2 management feed cost.
4 Herd health. Commodities stabilization
5 production increase
6 labor, old facilities
7 Maximizing feed inputs.
8 Related to milk price, but the oversupply issues we are dealing with right now. Land O Lakes is trying to keep production in check, but if they are the only ones who try to limit production, it will not help everyone anyway and the price will continue to be poor.
10 Feed Prices Land/Rent Prices
11 Making sure we have enough Forage of high quality to lower purchased feed costs
12 Feed cost and employee costs
13 Expected crop results not beinget due to wild weather patterns.
14 Ration cost and labor continue to be the two biggest challenges to keep under control.
Please provide any comments or suggestions on the program content or delivery below:
1 This was a great program. I’m the next generation on our farm, and it help me to understand how decisions impact our profitability.
2 It would be good if there were an online check off list. So we could see what information was due and when.
3 I get concerned when the client questions my program bc of extension questioning the He diet and they don’t understand the parameters of constraints we are under
4 good program for both large or small dairy. Small group gives you a lot more one on one time
5 Well organized, informative results
6 My answers on this survey are based on my role as veterinarian and nutritional consultant for this dairy, so my rankings emphasize the herd end of the survery.
7. The project team leaders will develop a Power Point presentation including data from the participating farms and a supporting fact sheet summarizing the results. September – October 2017
Several power points have been developed over the past year that include the results to date on this project. Currently the data is being formatted and getting ready to analyze. Once results become clear a fact sheet will be developed sharing the results on cropping, feeding and financials.
Dairy $ense is a monthly article written by Virginia Ishler and includes data from this project to highlight the big picture approach to the whole farm system.
Tim Beck and Virginia Ishler wrote an article for Hoard’s Dairyman that was accepted. It has not gone out to print at this time.
Dairy Outlook is being released every month to 1200 Ag professionals. Much of the data incorporated is a result of this project. https://extension.psu.edu/dairy-outlook-october-2017
8. At least 6 extension educators present results from this project at 8 established conferences, workshops, and field days for a minimum 300 consultants and 200 producers. November 2017 – June 2018
9. A follow-up survey to the 24 crop and dairy educators and 24 dairy producers evaluating what they learned, what practices they implemented, and what future areas should be explored. January 2018 – April 2018
10. Summarize results from this project and write a fact sheet. May – September 2018
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
Beneficiaries who participated in the project’s educational activities and events:
Survey monkey was used to gain feedback from service providers and farmers on this project. We asked questions to access their knowledge, value and skills related to this project. Seventy-five percent of the service providers and 100 percent of the producers responding had an increased awareness regarding their expectation on corn silage quality, changes in starch and fiber digestibility, kernel processing score, particle size distribution, agreement between the formulated versus actual TMR, TMR particle size, individual crops costs and cost of production. Sixty-three percent of the service providers and 60 percent of the producers responded an intent to implement change or already implemented change in the area of kernel processing score, corn silage particle size distribution, TMR agreement between formulated and actual, individual crop costs, and cost of production.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
Consulting in pairs, 24 crop and dairy educators and industry partners will work with 24 producers to improve corn silage management and feed management of forages.
6 educators will present results in workshop settings reaching 300 consultants and 200 producers.
Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers
Additional Project Outcomes
I was able to obtain additional funding to pay for another year of corn silage and TMR testing. Twenty-three of the twenty four farms are continuing on the project and we were able to get five additional farms to participate in this project. This will help get another year of data along with a complete financial analysis of 2017. This will add more validity to the one year of data that we have obtained.