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Thread: seasonal dairy systems

  1. #1
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    Default seasonal dairy systems

    Anybody use seasonal intensive grazing systems?
    I have read some stuff on the internet about this, however, most is pretty old info (2007 and earlier).

  2. #2
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    Default website on seasonal grazing

    I found this and I am posting in case it will help others.




    http://ohioline.osu.edu/rb1190/index.html
    Last edited by mmccallum; 10-17-2009 at 03:15 PM.

  3. #3
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    We are fully seasonal. IMO, it is one of the main profit drivers for our farm. The last winter we milked was 2000-2001. Right now all the cows are dry, which is nice with the cold and snow that we are getting.
    We will start calving Feb 1 and be through calving by end of March. However, one must have a tight calving window and start calving by Feb in our area, which is S MO. You want your cows calved out by the time grass starts peaking. There can be as much as $200 / cow difference in profit between a cow calving Feb 1 and Apr 1.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by OzarksMilk View Post
    We are fully seasonal. IMO, it is one of the main profit drivers for our farm. The last winter we milked was 2000-2001. Right now all the cows are dry, which is nice with the cold and snow that we are getting.
    We will start calving Feb 1 and be through calving by end of March. However, one must have a tight calving window and start calving by Feb in our area, which is S MO. You want your cows calved out by the time grass starts peaking. There can be as much as $200 / cow difference in profit between a cow calving Feb 1 and Apr 1.
    There are a lot of dairys for sale up your way accourding to dairyrealty.com. Is there a problem (beyond what is going on everywhere else in the country) , or are there just a lot of retirees? It seems like many have hung around on there a long time, but still posted on the actual realtor's sites.

  5. #5
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    The dairies that are going under are not the seasonal grazing kind. They are the confinement guys. We are at a disadvantage here for confinement because feed has to be shipped in and milk prices here are lower than the rest of the South. That being said, there are new grazing dairies going in here. We just closed on a new farm 2 weeks ago. The previous owner was going broke and we got it a decent price. We need to finish out the new parlor that he never finished and put in fences, water lines, lanes, and regrass it. We will do that this year and start milking there next year. There is lots of oppertunity here.

  6. #6
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    The previous owner was not willing to try grazing to save his farm or was it just too late?

  7. #7
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    I am seriously thinking about seasonal milking to try and profit more from grazing plus I think it would be better for breeding purpuses being that I work 8 hours a day at a full time outside job.It would be kind of nice to have the winter off also. My main concern would be the high heat and humid summers we have here in southern Illinois. I wouldn't thing the cows would eat much during the day. When I was at home still we liked to freshen most of the cows in the early fall to benifit from cool weather for feed intake.

  8. #8
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    From what I have read, but not having experience in grazing dairy, it is really the way to go.
    Have you read Larry Tranel's book "Dollars and Sense, A handbook for seasonal dairying?"
    It presents pretty convincing arguments for going the grazing path over the conventional path.

    I see the biggest risk of seasonal dairying being extended drought, however, extended drought
    is clearly a risk for everyone and I suspect that you could work around this problem with planning.
    This is not me speaking from experience, and certainly one of the other folks who do it can comment there!

    There is a lot of conventional dairying in Southern Illinois, particularly in Madison and Clinton Counties which composes the dairy belt of St. Louis. The Madison Co. Fair in Highland tends to have one heck of a dairy judging. the numbers of various breeds give a great show! I used to go to it a lot before I moved. If they can run a seasonal grazing system in southern Missouri I am sure you can run one in S. Illinois. I would not get too concerned about that. In fact, the shorter winter compared to Iowa and Wisconsin might allow you to stockpile your pasture and knock your winter feeding down to Dec-Feb. In fact, if you planned it out, you might be able to plant some winter wheat and graze it off early, then have someone custom crop it.

    The downside to IL is that much of the land is priced well above its productivity, or at least it used to be. I recall farmland exceeding $6K/A in some areas. Certainly, that land needs to awfully productive to overcome the steep land costs.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by OzarksMilk View Post
    The dairies that are going under are not the seasonal grazing kind. They are the confinement guys. We are at a disadvantage here for confinement because feed has to be shipped in and milk prices here are lower than the rest of the South. That being said, there are new grazing dairies going in here. We just closed on a new farm 2 weeks ago. The previous owner was going broke and we got it a decent price. We need to finish out the new parlor that he never finished and put in fences, water lines, lanes, and regrass it. We will do that this year and start milking there next year. There is lots of oppertunity here.
    Are you currently leasing and now moving? How many cows do you milk and do you do your own replacements?

  10. #10
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    Southern Illinois is probably similar to southern MO. One issue with seasonally calving there is getting your calving window early enough so you are not trying to breed in the heat, but not calving too early otherwise your calves will die from the cold.

    You could probably get around calf mortality by building a cover-all barn with a bedding pack for the springer mob and having them calve in there.

    We were grazing there and when the summer heat comes the cows aren't keen to eat much if they are outside. Having said that there is barely any grass that time of year anyway so they can get away with eating most of their supplements at night and near dawn and dusk, and spend midday in the shade. It works well for profit focused operations but maybe not production focused ones.

    You could consider autumn calving so the cows are dry in the hot summer. It means you have to milk in the winter, but at least the cows can handle the cold and will still have their appetite.

    Or you could do split calving, maybe a month in spring and a month in autumn. Both mating and calving periods will be short and any cows that don't conceive in one mating period can be milked through and mated 6 months later, for an 18 month lactation.

    . . . My idea is to design a cow that can calve every 2nd year and be milked once a day!!!!

  11. #11
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    Larry Tranel has a lot of articles and resources that promote grass based dairy to anyone considering getting into dairy or someone wanting to switch to grass based dairying. This link has a lot of useful information. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/dub...blications.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by MBurgess View Post
    . . . My idea is to design a cow that can calve every 2nd year and be milked once a day!!!!


    Yeah, and 5 days a week!!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmccallum View Post
    Are you currently leasing and now moving? How many cows do you milk and do you do your own replacements?
    We own 1 farm where we currently milk 150 head. We do lease the farm next door also, which gives us 200 acres of grazable acres. This as allowed us to provide all of the forage for the cows for the last 3 years. We haven't had to purchase hay. Of course, the last 2 years have been very wet and productive. We produce our own replacements but run them on farms that are not close enough for the milking string. We haven't purchased any replacements after 1999, but are currently buying heifers to stock the new farm. 'They will be bred in May so that we can be seasonal from the get go.
    The new farm will be an addition to our current opperation. It should be able to handle 300 cows easily. It has irrigation potential and has much better soils than our current farm. They are only 7 miles apart so we should be able to handle both.

  14. #14
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    Default Seasonal Dairy Systems

    Folks,

    When I was dairy farming full time as a younger man thirty years ago, I advanced the family farm intensive confinement production model from 17,000 lb herd average to 27,000 lbs on ~180 milkers plus replacements, and then decided that I could do it cheaper – better by moving the herd back to a semi pasture based model; …that got me exiled from the farm by the early 1990’s, …but with passing of time, I believe pasture based production and management models have proven profitable in many dynamic ways for those who can and choose to manage them well.

    I left the farm to build a business supportive of pasture based models. At first I sold Hydraulic Post Drivers and built fence systems across the region; the fence lent itself to wind breaks and vineyard trellis; vineyard trellis lent it’s methods to pasture micro climate manipulation, manipulation of environment lent itself to in-situ pasture housing and then to keyline soil aeration and further to low cost – high flow irrigation via “Keyline” (My client base involves some of the biggest dairy business’ in New York State).

    Now I personally still “like” the all year milking routine and I strive to support it, but I have pasture clients that choose seasonal and do very well at it for the amount of inputs and servicing costs - they put into pastures; and I do support them and have developed product and services for them to use as well.

    Long story short; …if I was to develop a dairy start-up today, it would be pasture based regardless of which of these two management methods I further chose to pursue.


    Be safe.

    Sincerely,

    Royal A. Purdy
    Clear Choice © - Elysian ©; Yeomans Plow Dealer, Sales and Service
    A. H. Tuttle and Company
    1007 County Road 8
    Farmington, NY. 14425
    www.ahtuttle.com
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    rapurdy@ahtuttle.com
    (315)-986-7007

  15. #15
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    [QUOTE=MBurgess;8637]Southern Illinois is probably similar to southern MO. One issue with seasonally calving there is getting your calving window early enough so you are not trying to breed in the heat, but not calving too early otherwise your calves will die from the cold.

    ******Southern MO is a lot warmer than southern Ill. But here is S. MO, the key to being seasonal is a short calving window in Feb and Mar. That allows the cows to peak in April and May when the grass is peaking and lets you breed in May and June before the peak heat.

    You could probably get around calf mortality by building a cover-all barn with a bedding pack for the springer mob and having them calve in there.

    ******We calve outside on overgrown Bermuda paddocks. We check the cows every 2 hours during calving season. It is intense but only lasts for about 6 weeks. The last part of the season is not so intense. We have tried calving indoors but it gets too nasty when calving out the intire herd in 2 months.

    We were grazing there and when the summer heat comes the cows aren't keen to eat much if they are outside. Having said that there is barely any grass that time of year anyway so they can get away with eating most of their supplements at night and near dawn and dusk, and spend midday in the shade. It works well for profit focused operations but maybe not production focused ones.

    ******You must have been here in a very bad year. Usually, there is enough grass for Summer grazing and if you have either shade or sprinklers, the cows are comfortable enough in the middle of the day to graze.

    You could consider autumn calving so the cows are dry in the hot summer. It means you have to milk in the winter, but at least the cows can handle the cold and will still have their appetite.

    ******But there is no grass to graze in the winter. Kind of defeats the purpose of seasonal.

    Or you could do split calving, maybe a month in spring and a month in autumn. Both mating and calving periods will be short and any cows that don't conceive in one mating period can be milked through and mated 6 months later, for an 18 month lactation.

    *******We use a retread system where cows that don't breed are carried as open dry cows for the following year. We breed them in May when we breed the milking string and coming hefiers. It lets us be very aggressive about calving windows without risking running out of cows. Where you make money with seasonal grazing is by avoiding the costs of winter milking. To me, that means you have to first be in the right climate for it. If winter lasts too long, being seasonal doesn't do much for the bottom line.

  16. #16
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    [QUOTE=OzarksMilk;8676]"Southern MO is a lot warmer than southern Ill. But here is S. MO, the key to being seasonal is a short calving window in Feb and Mar. That allows the cows to peak in April and May when the grass is peaking and lets you breed in May and June before the peak heat".

    **********That would be great but you are likely to see high open rates which is wastage if you are trying to be seasonal. Getting to the point where you can achieve that would take years of genetic development. Even NZers in an almost perfect grazing climate would struggle to get enough cows to calve in late Feb, and March to achieve high pregnancy rates. You would probably have to be aggresive with a sync program during mating, and then have to leave the bull out a bit longer and induce those late cows to calve in the window.


    "You must have been here in a very bad year. Usually, there is enough grass for Summer grazing and if you have either shade or sprinklers, the cows are comfortable enough in the middle of the day to graze."

    ******** I'm refering to cool season grasses. I can't see how you can have sprinklers in each paddock unless you have a center pivot irrigator that you can utilise as a sprinkler during the day. Not every paddock has shade either. We rotated through 3 shadey paddocks during the daytime, where they were fed their corn silage etc in the paddock along the fenceline at about 7am, they sat under the shade the rest of the day, or tried to climb into the water trough. At night they got a fresh grass paddock that they could graze.


    "But there is no grass to graze in the winter. Kind of defeats the purpose of seasonal".

    ********* There is grass if it is not covered in ice or snow.


    "We use a retread system where cows that don't breed are carried as open dry cows for the following year. We breed them in May when we breed the milking string and coming hefiers. It lets us be very aggressive about calving windows without risking running out of cows. Where you make money with seasonal grazing is by avoiding the costs of winter milking. To me, that means you have to first be in the right climate for it. If winter lasts too long, being seasonal doesn't do much for the bottom line"

    ********** By carrying over the open cows you are breeding problem genetics and keeping them in your herd. If you want to achieve a good seasonal herd with high pregnancy rates you have cull agressively, and also breed to the right genetics. Plus carrying over dry cows a whole year costs a lot of money depending on your situation - take into account feed costs, and interest costs on the land and the cow, add that too her current value as an open cow at the end of lactation - will she be worth this in a years time? Is a springing heifer cheaper? Also if you are grazing these open cows on your own farm, consider the opportunity costs of not being able to farm more milking cows, or young stock that increase in value and hence increase your equity.

    When we were farming there we had to milk the open cows through. Half of them started drying themselves off after a few months, the other half produced reasonably well all year. A bit of milk is probably better than feeding a dry cow.

  17. #17
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    What pasture composition are/were you folks using?

    Also, did you stockpile for bad weather?
    There are recommendations that in a pasture rotation to rotate and manage grass height in such a way that a series of paddocks grow through the fall. These are then grazed through part of the winter until they are down to the ground. When spring comes, you gaze through the nonstockpiled pastures, and the strockpiled pastures should then be ready for grazing by the time you rotate through the other paddocks. So, stockpiled pastures are rested in the fall, grazed in winter/or early spring, then they will have delayed growth and will recover last putting them back at the proper grazing stage. I think I outlined this right. Anyone doing this?
    If so, how much of your winter forage needs can you cover. The alternative is simply haying off some paddocks (or alternate areas) in the summer and supplying forage needs that way?

  18. #18
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    We farmed perrenial ryegrass with white clover in SW Missouri. The cultivar was Bronson, one from NZ. It did ok, went dormant in summer (and crab grass came up) and then slowed down growth in winter to about 5 kg DM/ha which is equivalent to 5 lbs DM/acre.

    I have never done your way of stock piling but the way we did it, and they way all NZers do it is as follows. . . .

    As you come into Autumn, start slowing down the rotation length of the whole farm e.g. a 30 to 60 day rotation i.e. graze 3.3%- 1.6% of the farm per day. (If this doesn't provide enough feed for your cows you will have to supplement them with other feeds). As you approach winter and once you dry off the cows you will be on a 100+ day round (1% grazed per day). The dry cows will get very small fresh breaks of grass per day so they have new ground to lie on and fresh grass to eat. Do this over the whole farm, so you are not exactly saving specific paddocks for winter etc.

    In effect, the slow rotation length means you will be entering the paddocks at a higher level of grass i.e. your cover may be 3500-4000 lb DM/acre, which is at least a foot tall. You still aim to graze right down to the ground, and with dry cows you can even graze down lower than normal i.e. almost to the dirt.

    As calving starts around February you can start speeding up the round as your milking cows will need more area and more grass per cow. This shouldn't matter too much as the pasture growth rates will be increasing again and will start to keep up with demand. You will start grazing paddocks that you had grazed at the very start of winter as you will probably be almost through your whole farm by then (since you were on a 100 day round, these paddocks were grazed roughly 100 days ago!).

    If you know your weather well you can position yourself so that you can be on a 15 day round as soon as the spring flush hits. Be carefull because if you are too fast too soon you will hurt pasture production and could find yourself with a problem of not enough grass for all your freshly calved high producing cows!

    We stick strictly to this pattern for winter, and if the grass allowed is not enough, we supplement the diet with corn silage, grass silage, or hay. The amount of supplementation required will depend on how high you have stocked your farm.

    Hope this helps.

  19. #19
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    We don't exactly stockpile either. We have 3 types of grasses. First is annual ryegrass/whited clover. We graze it from calving to early June, using about a 21 day rotation. At first, we have to supplement with hay. We pull off for 6 weeks to let the ryegrass reseed and then graze the crabgrass that comes in till we have a good stand of baby ryegrass. At that time we quit grazing it till cold weather sets in which is usually mid November. We then graze it off before we dry off the cows. Leting it stay long in our climate will cause winter kill.
    Second is Bermuda/white clover. We start grazing the clover early with open heifers and move the milking string on it in early June. We graze it using a 10-14 day rotation till mid September. Third is native Fescue/Orchardgrass/Clover. This is a farm we rent and cannot regrass. We cut hay off of it in May and again in August, most of which is put up as baleage. We start grazing in in mid September and continue till dry off in December. If there is any left, we will graze it with the dry cows. If it is worth messing with, we can haul the dry cows off farm for 6 weeks to graze elsewhere, then bring them back to calve.
    If we want, we can feed not much hay, less than 1 ton of dry matter per cow. We try to feed all of the baleage every year, so sometimes we have more hay than that. If so, we can cut back on Spring applications of N.

  20. #20
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    Ozarks - What happens to your bermuda stand during the cooler months? Does something else grow there? Also why do you grow annual ryegrass (I'm assuming you mean Italian ryegrass which is a biennial) instead of perennial? Does the extra growth you get from it in the winter make up for the re-seeding costs every year or so?

    Do you have any trouble with the Fescue seed from the rented farm being carried onto your own farm indirectly? I'm assuming it is wild fescue with the endophyte???


    We had crab grass grow in the summer too. In NZ it is called summer grass and is considered a weed. The cows aren't keen to eat it until it is their only option i.e. the ryegrass is fully dormant. We found it best to stay on a 5-7 day rotation on the crab grass otherwise the cows don't like it if it is too mature. It wasn't that dense on our farm and didn't grow in every paddock, so it was easy to stay on a fast rotation all summer.

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