Benefits of forage inventory planning

Posted on April 14, 2020 in Forage Foundations
By Jon Rasmussen, Vita Plus dairy technology specialist
It’s April 24 and your agronomist is coming to scout some alfalfa fields. You’re already thinking about how tightly you’ll have to manage your haylage inventory to make it to first crop and you’re already planning to feed fresh haylage. You hope the agronomist will ease some concerns and say you can plant the planned corn, alfalfa, grass, and other crops, but recent history has caused anxiety.

We can hope for the best, but, too often, we expect the worst.

No matter what the fields look like, it is advantageous to know when the feed in storage will be used up, and frequent measurements and projections of your feed inventory will help reduce that anxiety.

Knowing your feed inventories can help you devise a plan to either make the next crop or rest easier by projecting carryover.  In the example described above, the current haylage will be gone and we will be dependent on the new haylage crop. We can control our anxiety by knowing how long the projected first-crop acres will last. Scouting reports can be used by your nutritionist to calculate how long the crop will last (number of acres multiplied by the expected yield).

The same can be done in the scenario of winterkill by estimating the surviving alfalfa acres and acres of alternative forages being planted. By projecting inventories, we can estimate when the alternative forage should be harvested and what it will yield.

Vita Plus consultants have access to a tool called the Forage Inventory Projector. This tool is used to measure current inventories, project how the current rations will use that inventory, and project inventories after future harvests and the rations that will be fed in the future.

For example, if it is late-April and you are planning an alternative forage to be harvested around July 10, we can estimate the expected tonnage on July 10 and use that to project rations for the forage it will replace. Having accurate projections will help plan for the next crop, the next ration adjustment, and the next purchases, and help keep anxiety at a manageable level.

Hopefully this year’s scenarios don’t call for extensive measuring and planning, but, whether they do or not, it is a good idea to review total forage inventories regularly. Many producers perform a total review after corn silage harvest, but it can be done at any time to evaluate your ideal ration needs and historic tonnage per acre. This review can also help determine if the acres match your forage needs and help with forage planning.

Regular forage inventories and projections also help keep your nutritionist, agronomist, seed salesperson, and other team members focused on meeting the needs of your operation instead of grasping at how to help in an emergency. This is also a time to review what worked and what didn’t go as expected during harvest. If you have not had a comprehensive forage inventory discussion with your entire team, please contact your Vita Plus consultant to create a forage plan to help reduce forage inventory anxiety.

Category: Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting
Forage storage and management