by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Several recognized dairy nutritionists and producers recently shared feeding information at on-farm meetings held at Central NY farms.
Andrew Kross of Indian Camp Farm, Earlville, was one of those producers. The farm’s current statistics average about 86 pounds per cow per day, with 4.1 percent fat and 3.2 percent protein, and a rolling herd average of 27,100 pounds.
“Nothing official, but I believe they would be in the top 5 percent for net milk income minus grain costs per cow per day for dairy farms in New York State,” said Central NY Dairy Specialist Dave Balbian.
Kross, who has recently added a ‘silage facer’ to his equipment, showed attendees the feed bunks.
“The bunks are currently a total of 200 x 200 feet,” explained Kross. “We have five walls of 10 foot high t-panels, which we move a lot during the summer hay season.”
Corn silage and high moisture shelled corn (HMSC) are covered with oxygen barrier plastic and the walls are also lined. “Our goal for corn is 30–35 percent moisture.” Haylage is covered with regular white plastic with unlined walls.
Although Indian Camp normally produces all of their forage, some HMSC was purchased in 2012 because of the weather, to supplement their crops. They do not grow BMR corn.
Kross harvests 500 acres of corn and about 400 acres of grass/alfalfa.
“We plant several hundred acres of cover crops and are beginning to utilize some of these as forage crops in the spring before corn planting.”
Inoculants are used on all of the forages and Kross stressed that folks should be careful about reading and following directions on each inoculant, as they are not all the same.
“Inoculants promote sufficient lactic acid,” stated Balbian. “And 95 percent of the time they are worth it — but not as a replacement for good management.”
Balbian and Kross pointed out that harvesting at correct moisture and maturity, filling the bunkers fast, packing tightly and sealing properly were key to managing silage.
Indian Camp began feeding whey from Chobani over 3 years ago. “We have a 5,000 gallon tank located in a dead spot in the free stall barn, with a submersible pump that pumps it up and out the side into the feed wagon outside the barn.”
Kross said there were very few operational issues and the cows took to it well, with no drastic changes when they whey was added to their feed. “We take 6,800 to 7,500 gallons every 5 days, and what doesn’t fit in the tank goes down the manure drop into storage. We use 4,500-5,000 gallons every 5 days for feeding and have never had an issue with it keeping.”
Kross feeds a total mixed ration (TMR), using a reel mixer. “We store commodities at the old farm and make a grain ‘premix’ which is taken to the new farm and add HMSC and whey to it, mix it and use it as the herd’s grain source for next day’s feeding. The grain mix contains distillers, cottonseed, canola, a custom protein/vitamin mix, HMSC, whey and corn silage to act as a carrier. We feed this premix along with haylage, corn silage, and additional whey.”
Kross says the grain premix is very important in helping “reduce loading errors and maintain consistency of the feed.”
The farm uses a computerized feeding program with a TMR Tracker, which uses scales to help assure accuracy and track feed usage.
Kross feeds his cows once a day and pushes up the feed 7 or 8 times throughout the day. Indian Camp currently has a milking herd of 360 with about 60 dry cows, 130 bred heifers, about 50 of breeding age, and about 170 yearling and younger.
“Our cull rate is around 40 percent, due to the barn being full, and pregnancy rate is 28 percent. We use a strict pre-synch/ovsynch program with 100 percent timed breeding at first service and we chalk tail heads to catch repeats. We are 100 percent A.I.”
Indian Camp’s free stall barn is a six-row steel frame structure with side wall and ridge-vent curtains. “We have fans and automated sprinklers in feed alleys and holding area, rubber belting in feed alley, and automatic scrapers. Manure is all collected by gravity flow to a 400,000-gallon concrete lagoon, and is pumped over into a newer, 1.8 million-gallon concrete storage, as needed.”
Kross owns the farm in a partnership with his father David, who, with wife Carole, began the original farm in 1969. Both Andrew and David are graduates of Cornell.
“We went from 175 to 220 cows between 1996 and 2002, decided to build at a new location to take advantage of efficiencies of scale, and to make CAFO compliance easier,” said Andrew. “The old location was located in a flood plain and was serviced by an old parlor and barns.”
The original farm is still maintained and used to house the young stock.
Milking at the new farm location began in the autumn of 2004.
“Since then have added onto main barn so we could house dry cows at new facility. We also expanded the bunk silo several times, added on bedding storage and added a hospital/hoof trim building.”
This coming summer Kross plans to install an automatic calf feeder and move to group housing of wet calves. “We’ll be building a new bred heifer free stall barn as well.”
“Their forage quality is excellent, which allows them to achieve a high net milk income minus grain costs,” reported Balbian. “Nutritionist Brian Rapp balances their ration for Amino Acids, which helps them to achieve high milk protein and butterfat along with high milk output per cow.”
The On-Farm Feeding Programs were provided by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Central NY Dairy and Field Crops Team and coordinated by Dairy Specialist Dave Balbian.