Friday, January 22, 2010

At Capacity

Our current milking herd is now up to 230 cows thanks to lots of calvings and not many dry-offs, and we've still got 20 more head expected to calve over the next four weeks. While this may sound great, it's going to prompt some tough management decisions on our part.

If you've been keeping up with us over the last few months you'll recall that we had a very poor silage harvest due to the weather in September and October. We've fed the milk cows nearly all of the sudex baleage we harvested and will be switching them over to sorghum silage within a couple of weeks. When we look at the estimated amount of silage we have stored and how much we think we'll have to feed per cow each day, it's unlikely that our supply will be enough to carry this many cows through until our spring forages have been harvested and ensiled.

Right now it appears our best option moving forward is to reduce our milking herd size. We have several pregnant cows that are still several months away from calving that aren't producing very high above the profitability line. We can go ahead and dry some of these off early (we typically dry off cows 2 months prior to calving) and let them eat bermudagrass hay and graze tall fescue. We can also go ahead and move some more cows into the beef market earlier than we would typically do.

The next couple of months are going to be pretty interesting, and the weather will play a huge factor in the decisions we make. If the weather is well suited for growing and grazing our forages over the next few months, we should be able to make it fine without having to cut our numbers by a whole lot. Otherwise, we'll probably be looking at heavy culling, selling a load of cows or heifers to another dairy, and buying additional forage.

4 comments:

Daniel said...

It's amazing how so many decisions on the farm are based on weather.

Anonymous said...

How do you feel about the mis-information reported on nightline last PM about how dairyman mistreat their cows. Very misleading and irresponsible reporting!!!!

GreenRanchingMom said...

Tough decisions!!!Keep up the great blogging to the world!! Everyone will see how much you truly care for your cows!!

WDG said...

Anon,
I wasn't too happy with the lack of balance in the reporting, but ultimately I realize that for the most part shock sells and this is the type of news reporting we'll be seeing more and more of, at least from the national level. I think for the most part we'll get a fair shake from our local stations, but we have to be proactive in establishing relationships with reporters across all forms of media.
All in all, this story just underscores our need to get the word out about what we really do on our farms and take the time to tell our story to anyone who is willing to listen.