As I sit in my Starr Hill farm office writing this article, I just completed taking a full inventory of my hay and feed supplies on our farm. In doing a mid-winter inventory, we look at how many bales of first cutting and second cutting hay we have, along with bedding hay and round bales.

In addition, I also inventory how much haylage currently is in our silo. We do this by counting the doors that are still closed to determine how much is remaining in the silo. Interestingly enough, there is as much feed in the bottom third of the silo as there is in the top two-thirds of an upright silo due to compaction.

Most farmers, after taking this mid-winter inventory, will make any needed adjustments to the feeding program in order to maintain a totally balanced diet for their dairy cows for the rest of the indoor feeding season, which ends around May 15. May 15 is when most of our livestock go to pasture in this part of Central New York.

Doing some late winter feed math

Figuring out the indoor feeding totals is a yearly exercise. Photo courtesy of Rob Maciol/6 Point Acres Farm

Most farmers and livestock producers that are grazing their animals in the summer graze them from May 15 through Oct. 15. With indoor feeding season for farmers who pasture their livestock from Oct. 15 to May 15 (totaling 210 days), the old farmer’s rule of thumb is that Feb. 2 (Groundhog Day) is the halfway point of the feeding season, and that makes it time to do our livestock feed inventory.

If livestock owners think they’ll be running short, it’s much easier to find feed to buy in February than it is in April or May. If the farmers find that they will have a surplus in feed, they will have an opportunity to easily sell their feed for some extra money to pay for springtime expenses like seed, fertilizer, machinery parts or fuel. Farmers also like to sell their surplus feed to help empty the barns and silos for the next season’s crops.

I also had the opportunity to talk to a larger free-stall farmer, Troy Finn of Finndale Farms in Steuben. He also takes inventory in early February, but he uses an unmanned aerial system (drone) to measure the piles of haylage and corn silage by flying over and measuring the height and the width of the massive piles to make sure he has enough to get to the next Groundhog Day, because he feeds his entire dairy herd indoors 365 days a year. He tries to have at least three months’ worth of feed supply after autumn harvest time to account for loss (which is mainly caused by spoilage from storage).

by Ben Simons (Farmer Ben from Steuben)