Livestock Feed: Hay Expo Hosts Raise Top Quality Forages

Livestock Feed: Hay Expo Hosts Raise Top Quality Forages

Visitors at this year's Hay Expo event near Waukon, Iowa, on June 20 and 21 will get to see how a large, successful dairy grows high quality feed.

High quality forages are the mainstay of any dairy operation. It's even more critical when you are managing a milking herd of more than 675 cows. That's why Hay Expo Host Regancrest Holsteins LLC, Waukon, Iowa, pays close attention to forage management and ration formulation.

The Regans raise about 600 acres of alfalfa a year. Ninety-percent of it is chopped as haylage. They maintain their hay fields for four years, rotating and renewing fields annually.

GOOD EATS: Cows at Regancrest are well nourished thanks to the way the Regans manage their forages.

"We are on a four-year soil sampling program where we sample one fourth of the hay ground every year," explains Bill Regan. "If weather allows, on fields that will be reseeded the following spring, we apply lime where it is needed in the fall before chiseling.  We also apply potash and sulfur – around 200 lbs. per acre of sulfur." If we don't get it done in the fall we do it in the spring before preparing the seedbed."

Alfalfa is drilled in at a rate of 18 lbs. per acre of seed, along with a cover crop of oats – two bushels per acre. "We are in rolling country and like to have a nurse crop to hold the soil." After seeding, a culti-packer is used to help firm the seedbed and improve seed-to-soil contact.

About 75% of the oats are harvested as oatlage. The rest is harvested as grain for feed and the straw used for bedding. "After we harvest the oats, we get two cuttings of hay and normally four cuttings on established stands.

All fields are sprayed with a pesticide to control leafhoppers. "We normally spray for leafhoppers after first cutting and we have a scout who keeps an eye out to see if more treatment is needed. And we also buy leafhopper-resistant alfalfa varieties," explains Bill.

CORN SILAGE: Nearly 500 acres of corn is harvested as earlage for the dairy cows.

Herbicide-resistant variety
The Regans seeded around 25 acres of Roundup Ready alfalfa last year. "So, far, it is good stand and there is no competition with grass yet," states Bill. They haven't applied any herbicides, just sprayed for leafhoppers. Even though happy with the results, they have no immediate plans to plant more RR alfalfa. "However, if we had to seed without a nurse crop, we would definitely use more RR seed.

Set The Schedule For Hay Quality. Deciding when to make the first cutting of hay sets the stage for the rest of the year. Download our FREE report Bailing Up Hay-Making Costs: A Buyer's Guide  today.

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The Regans try to follow a 28-day cutting interval, usually taking the first cutting around May 25.

"To get it to pack well, we try to cut alfalfa as course as we can at moisture around 55-65%.  If it gets too dry we have to shorten the cut.

CHOPPED ALFALFA: About 90% of the 600 acres of alfalfa grown at Reagancrest is chopped as haylage.

They use a Claas rotary mower with three 10-foot rotary cutters so it takes a 29-foot swath. Windrows are merged with a Kuhn merger, which can merge windrows into 60 to 90 feet.

Hay is chopped with a Claas – 930 chopper. The material is hauled to the concrete bunker using three trucks and two wagons. At the bunker, a 12-foot dozer blade on a tractor is used for leveling while another tractor packs. When filled, the bunker is covered with a layer of film and 4 mil poly.

Corn silage
The Regans raise about 1,000 acres of corn, 500 of which is chopped for grain silage. The balance is harvested as high moisture grain, stored in sealed silos, and some dry grain. "We start out making earlage with a snapper head and we like that around 40% moisture. We like 22-25% moisture for the shelled corn going into sealed silos."

To aid in erosion control, the Regans are experimenting with cover crops. They seeded rye on 35 acres last fall. The field had been chopped for silage and liquid manure applied. "We hope to harvest the rye for dry cow and heifer feed," notes Bill.  "If it grows enough we'll chop it for halage, otherwise we will have to burn it down and plant corn.  We are just trying it to see how it works. One concern is if we have a wet spring you can have a hard time harvesting and it gets late for planting corn."

These northeast Iowa dairy farmers are also considering trying shredlage – silage corn harvested at longer chop lengths. Shredlage is said to be more highly digestible and less sortable than standard corn silage. But Regan says they would have to switch to a higher horsepower chopper to use the shredlage processor." And that's a $60,000 option." 

Set The Schedule For Hay Quality. Deciding when to make the first cutting of hay sets the stage for the rest of the year. Download our FREE report Bailing Up Hay-Making Costs: A Buyer's Guide  today.

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The cows, the people & the philosophy
In 1951, Regancrest was started by William (Bill) & Angella Regan and family.  The partnership was started with registered cattle from top cow families in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

One of the goals was to breed profitable cows with an emphasis on good feet and legs and good udders.  This balanced cow is still the quest of Regancrest today.

In February 1999, work was completed for a new dairy facility with milking capacity of 600.  Along with milking cows and extensive flushing and transfer work, over 2,600 acres are farmed along with custom work.  Regancrest currently has over 20 employees. Family members making up the majority each are in charge of their own area of the operation. 

Frank manages the genetics, daily animal health, vet work and assists with the milking.  His wife, Mary, is in charge of calf feeding and preparing dinner for all the employees.  Their son Brian assists with the cropping enterprise and helps with custom raising the young stock.  Daughter Sheri assists Frank with the genetics and marketing.  His son Sean and Sean's wife Krystal are in charge of the calves.  Sean also works with the crop enterprise.

Charlie is parlor manager and helps with field work.  His son Mitch also helps the family out with chores and crop work.

Bill is the crop manager.  Bill's wife Karen is parlor manager and enters day-to-day information on the dairy herd to PC DART Management Program. Ronald and brother-in-law Darrel Henning mix all feed for the dairy herd and breeding stock working with nutritionist Dan Bergin of Land O Lakes Feeds.

Host publications for this event include - Hay & Forage Grower, Wallaces Farmer, Wisconsin Agriculturist and The Farmer.

Set The Schedule For Hay Quality. Deciding when to make the first cutting of hay sets the stage for the rest of the year. Download our FREE report Bailing Up Hay-Making Costs: A Buyer's Guide  today.

TAGS: Farm Shows
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