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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Forages > Could your forage win the "Super Bowl"?

Could your forage win the "Super Bowl"?

Jim Paulson, Extension Educator-Dairy
October 22, 2011

I recently attended the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI. One exhibit I especially enjoy is the Forage Super Bowl, which is an annual contest evaluating quality of forage samples submitted by forage producers, generally from the Midwest. Forages are divided into different categories: regular or BMR corn silage, commercial or dairy farm hay, dairy haylage or baleage, and for the first time this year, grass hay. The commercial and dairy farm hay must be greater than 75% legume while the grass hay must be greater than 75% grass. The haylage and baleage may be any mixture of legumes and grasses.

In the accompanying tables, I have chosen to show the top five placings in four categories: standard corn silage, BMR corn silage, dairy farm hay and grass hay. First, compare the two categories of corn silage. I think the data between the two may be more interesting than within a category. The data shows results we typically see when comparing non-BMR to BMR corn silages: lower starch, and higher NDFD (neutral detergent fiber digestibility) as a percent of NDF. Several questions can be raised. Which is more valuable, starch or digestible NDF? How much yield do I give up when planting BMR corn? What is the seed cost per acre? You may also change the questions to: How much starch yield or digestible NDF do I gain or lose per harvested acre? What is my seed cost per pound, ton of starch or digestible NDF yield? Or, which forage will allow my cows to eat more forage and improve income over feed cost, or which hybrid has the higher starch digestibility? The table also shows that we need to look at more than just milk per ton to decide which forage will be best suited for your feeding program. My observation of all the corn silages was that they were all chopped correctly, and processed and harvested at the correct moisture range. However, some of the silages definitely did not look or smell as good as most.

Next, compare the grass and legume hay. Again, we see similar analysis with relative forage quality (RFQ) and crude protein but definite differences with the NDF content and the NDF digestibility. At similar maturity, grasses will be higher in NDF and NDFD. But what NDF do we want? Remember when we used to say that the ideal forage was 20-30-40? That was a guide for 20% crude protein, 30% ADF and 40% NDF. The RFV goal was 150. Now, we look for a RFQ of 175.

Are the grass and legume hay entries too good? I am sure that is a question many are asking. We know that cows will eat more and milk more on better quality forage. We try to balance yield and quality while trying to get cows to milk more and keep our feed costs lower. With higher feed costs, high quality home grown forages offer a lot of advantages. I heard a very good statement at Expo from a New York dairyman. It was, "My nutritionist is only as good as the forages I provide him."

Placing

Standard Dairy Corn Silage

% Dry Matter Basis

NDFD

Judge Score

Milk Per Ton

Final Score

DM

CP

NDF

Starch

ASH

% NDF

1

30.1

8.3

36.1

34.8

3.9

68.0

81.0

3583

93.9

2

36.2

8.1

35.3

37.2

3.7

65.2

82.7

3633

92.0

3

36.3

8.5

33.0

36.9

4.0

60.9

80.0

3591

91.3

4

35.9

7.0

35.5

37.9

3.5

58.9

89.0

3623

88.8

5

32.2

7.6

35.8

36.8

4.1

56.7

85.3

3568

86.9

 

Placing

BMR Dairy Corn Silage

% Dry Matter Basis

NDFD

Judge Score

Milk Per Ton

Final Score

DM

CP

NDF

Starch

ASH

% NDF

1

36.3

8.1

36.4

33.2

3.8

75.7

84.3

3680

95.3

2

35.8

8.5

37.3

33.4

3.2

75.6

84.0

3612

95.2

3

31.3

8.9

37.8

32.2

3.8

69.4

86.0

3577

95.2

4

37.3

10.9

37.2

32.2

3.9

73.6

73.0

3611

95.2

5

36.1

7.4

38.6

33.8

3.9

74.8

87.7

3580

94.2

 

Placing

Grass Hay

% Dry Matter Basis

48HR IV   NDFD               % of NDF

Judge Score

RFQ

Milk Per Ton

Final Score

DM

CP

NDF

1

90.2

17.5

34.0

81.4

92.3

270

3483

94.5

2

85.0

26.2

37.2

78.0

94.3

242

3390

93.3

3

87.8

23.2

36.0

71.8

92.0

236

3407

92.9

4

85.8

22.9

46.5

79.0

89.7

209

3301

90.2

5

91.5

18.2

43.1

81.5

92.0

222

3206

89.1

 

Placing

Dairy Hay

% Dry Matter Basis

48HR IV   NDFD               % of NDF

Judge Score

RFQ

Milk        Per Ton

Final Score

DM

CP

NDF

1

87.7

24.0

25.5

53.3

94.3

272

3378

93.0

2

87.3

24.5

25.0

51.2

85.3

269

3288

88.6

3

85.5

22.9

29.8

50.1

90.3

220

3138

87.2

4

84.8

22.6

30.6

48.9

93.0

210

3061

86.6

5

86.2

24.6

26.2

51.4

80.7

255

3224

86.0

 

 

 

 

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