So, what is “Fresh Forage”? It might just be a new name for “green chop”, but it
is really much more than that. Fresh Forage refers to an actual balanced-in forage ingredient for high-producing dairies. It was covered in one of Daniel Olson’s (lead forage specialist with Forage Innovations) earliest Zoom discussions during the new way to interact with you during Covid 19, but before the quality of our Zoom recordings became more polished! The Zoom discussion was not published due to its quality. One dairy, at least, heard the message loud and clear!
During the Zoom meeting, we interviewed 3 large dairies (from 3000 to 13,500 cows) who have been adding fresh forage to their TMRs as a daily ingredient for up to 5 years. The advantages we uncovered included:
- Savings of up to $0.75 per cow per day. Savings include less purchased protein, less mineral and vitamin pack, and less grain.
- No forage shrink from harvesting, storage, fermentation or from waste from loading the mixer wagon at the bunk silo.
- No covering, no plastic, no tires, no facing, and no preservative for this feed.
- Fresh forage was compared to eating fresh vegetables from the garden rather than cooking them.
- Fresh forage is incredibly palatable.
- Ability to cut every 21 days and up to 10 cuttings per year (in Wisconsin).
- Having yields higher than corn silage in the same locality.
- High aNDFom, high NDFD30 (up to 80%) and low uNDF240 (as low as 1.9%).
- All this with equal or higher energy-corrected milk (ECM).
Even though we did not post this Zoom on Facebook, Daryl Woldt of Brillion, WI, after hearing the live version, put the idea to work. Daryl (who milks 1400+ cows, raises over 1000 heifers and farms 4500 acres) sent us a report after several months of feeding fresh forage. He started at 2 lbs. dry matter (DM) increased it to 4.5 lbs. DM and is now feeding 6.77 DM. So far, he has now missed four days, ome due to a mechanical issue. and three days were missed around Thanksgiving due to saturated newly seeded fields that were too soft to support the equipment.
There was also a day he should not have chopped as his area got a sudden, short-lived snowstorm, and he learned that even the biggest Claas choppers cannot chop snow-covered grass! Daryl
was still going strong until December 11th when winter finally brought the curtain down. He started his experiment May 17th, making it just short of 7 months of fresh forage.
Daryl earlier sent the following list of his observations after several months of his experiment:
storage loss, from field to cow. No fermentation loss.
- Fresh feed, cows like it, helps intakes. Highly palatable.
- We get super NDF digestibility, large volume of digestible fiber, and an incredibly high rate of digestion (kd). (NDF 240s are the same or higher than BMR corn silage, but with a much higher fiber level to start with).
- TTNDFD’s about the same as BMR corn silage.
- Reduced feed cost and increased forage level in ration without increasing the uNDF240 in the diets.
- Potential to pull more nutrients out of the soil by frequent harvest, could be a benefit (especially phosphorus).
- Forage level increase of 6% +/- and aNDFom went up 2%age units.
- Starch level decrease of 4-5 %age units.
- Dietary protein level drop of almost 1 %age unit.
- Savings om ration costs, $0.60-$0.70 currently.
This list well matched the summation from our Zoom report! The following chart put together by Daryl and his nutritionist summarizes his production results:
|Here are some of our production numbers starting from before we started the green chop.|
|EMC Lbs. Fat/pro Intakes 4 highest pens March 96.4 6.4 Previous 40 days 40 days being on May 95.22 6.19 1st pen 67 65 June 96.5 6.27 2nd pen 63.8 63 Less DM lbs. to get same or more milk and components July 94.72 6.11 3rd pen 62.3 61 August 93.78 6.05 4th pen 67 65 September 94.25 6.11 October 96.17 6.32 November 96.98 6.38|
The most important thing to note other than the production is the dry matter intake. We have always said at Forage Innovations, when forage is highly digestible and enough of it is warm or cool season grass, the kd and the extent of digestion goes upwhile the rate of passage (kp) goes down slightly causing more of the fed forage to be utilized for energy and less for manure! Milk Efficiency goes up!
What crops are being harvested? We are chopping a mixture of perennial European cool season grasses sometimes with a little red clover mixed in. We have been planting cool grasses for about 10 years to have 1) a place to go throughout the summer for recycling “farm-produced” nutrients and 2) the high digestibility of these grasses.
What equipment are you using? We are using a 20’ direct-cut head mounted on our Claas forage harvester and pull a dump wagon behind the chopper. It is a one-man operation. It takes a semi-trailer of fresh forage to feed the herd each day. If the field is farther away from the buildings, we dump into the semi. If we are chopping in fields near the feeding pad, we dump each load on the pad.
How do you handle the variance in dry matter? We constantly monitor the dry matter. Typically, we find the moisture is 80 to 82%. If heavy dew or rain is present the moistures can be up to 88%. The fresh feed is regulated into the diet by these tests. Also, diets are formulated using haylage from the bunkers for when fresh chopping is impossible.
How has the ration changed? Crude protein was dropped to 16.5% from 17%. Starch is now 23% rather than 27-8%. aNDFom is up 2% units. Other feed cost savings result from no packing, covering or preservatives and no shrinkage!
Were trace minerals or vitamins reduced? We did not experiment with the micro ingredients this year, however from seeing the availability of all the nutrients, we will experiment with it next year.
How did you control the maturity of the crop? We have found with fresh forage the maturity is no way near the problem it is with feeding fermented forage. We can go at least 10 days longer before harvesting than we can when ensiling. The cows still love it and we see no reduction in milk. When the crop stopped growing here in Dec. the digestibility started to decrease.
How about manure application? Depending on other workloads, we can spread 10 loads of manure (1 load per acre or about 6000 gallons) on the same day or we may wait 4 days and do 40 acres at once. Also, we have a large feed pad (10 acres) on which we collect of the leachate and rainwater. This is used for irrigation when the weather is droughty.
And how do you feel about Fresh Feed now? “With the savings in ration costs, storage, shrinkage, etc., I wish I could milk 5000 cows in the summer, feeding them this way and none to milk and feed in the winter!”
Anybody have any Florida vacation property for sale!?
Larry Hawkins, PAS Forage Innovations forageinnovations.guru