by Troy Bishopp
MUNNSVILLE, NY — “Keeping the rumen healthy makes the grazing dairy cow more productive,” emphasized Organic Valley’s Ruminant Nutritionist, Silvia Abel-Caines. Fine tuning management practices and learning about forages was the focus of dairy nutrition pasture walks throughout New York and Pennsylvania. Leading this effort was Dr. Abel-Caines and Kings AgriSeeds professionals, Rod Porter and Harold Shrock along with host farms providing, in the field, practical applications.
With the trend in the marketplace of wanting more “healthy fats,” Organic Valley has made a concerted effort to find ways to improve member herd’s milk components which just so happens to raise farm pay price premiums, a win for all. Dr. Silvia, known throughout the country for her expertise in feeding ruminants, stressed keeping the rumen in balance through feed consistency and maximizing rumen fill. It’s a tall order for a grazing animal with so many environmental variables.
Dr. Silvia’s top 10 recommendations for happy cows included: Avoid cows grazing very immature lush pastures without high energy forages to balance rumen, practice good grazing management, consistently keep five pounds of excellent quality dry hay in the ration and monitor milk urea nitrogen (MUN) levels, aim for pasture and conserved forages with fiber digestibility over 55 percent, if feeding corn silage, do not exceed 50 percent of dry matter forage, avoid high starch and low-roughage feeding, focus on cow comfort during calving or periods of extreme weather, supplement the ration with buffers when needed, address molds and mycotoxins in forages and grains, introduce probiotics and other feed additives and monitor for return on investment.
Beef Farmer, Kings AgriSeed’s dealer and soil health consultant, Harold Shrock of Berry Hill Farm in Deansboro, NY believes that nature was created to function regeneratively and that management solutions often outperform technical solutions. “Emerging data is suggesting that profitability is not based on production, it’s based on the correlation to profitably store soluble carbon in the soil. Leaves per acre, high in sugar (energy) production should be our #1 goal.”
Shrock inspired farmers to capture the sun’s power with proper grazing management, soil mineralization, plant diversity and soil biology. He described how planting and efficiently using high-energy forages throughout the growing season benefited the cows, soil and the bottom line. “With more species diversity, stable high production limits volatility. In the era of high land values, it pays to optimize all your resources,” said Shrock.
Pasture walks are a signature for conscientious graziers and their support network and this series of meetings was no exception. They measured pasture dry matter levels per acre, compared plant species and new varieties, studied dung beetles, practiced body condition scoring and looked at corresponding forage tests. Many guests commented how much they liked interacting with peers and receiving quality hands-on advice, especially during August, when weather conditions can be challenging for pastoralists.
For more information contact: Organic Valley NY Pool Coordinators, Anne Phillips at or Eric Beiler at