Gar-Lin Dairy Farms Inc. currently consists of 1,100 cows on 3X milking with 45 percent bST use. We have a 30,985 RHA with a 25 percent culling rate. All heifers and cows remain under our management and nutritional scheme. We grow our heifers on an accelerated growth program with an average age at calving of 23 months.

My position on the farm is as an owner with specific responsibility to manage the dairy herd and its employees. With a Ph.D. in ruminant nutrition, I also serve as our nutritionist. Coupling these responsibilities gives me a bird’s-eye view of what occurs day to day on the dairy and the impact of small changes in dry matter, feed delivery, feed push-ups, transitioning forages and intentional diet changes. Starch and sugar components in the diet become the largest challenge when forage quality and feeding consistency is not achieved.

The key to our success is consistency for all aspects of milk harvest: milking protocols, cow handling, feeding, treatment protocols, reproduction protocols, tracking follow-up treatments and calf and heifer feeding. At our level of production, even the slightest change takes days to recover milk production.

Forage harvest and management

•Optimum harvest of haylageand corn silage
Most important is harvest moisture and harvest quality. No feed ingredient can correct poorly fermented feeds.


•Let new ensiled forages go through the fermentation cycle.
Two-and-one-half weeks is our minimum on haylage; six weeks minimum on corn silage, but we would prefer nine weeks.

•Hybrid selection
Look to be in the top tier of hybrids in terms of fiber digestibility. Hybrids selected must fit your management capabilities and forage usage.

•Feeding consistency

Do you know if the diet being fed matches the diet on paper? Utilize tools available that improve batch consistency. Offer performance incentives to ensure consistency.

•Fresh feed everyday
Don’t shortcut on cleaning up yesterday’s feed.

Management details
•Transitioning forages

Never underestimate the importance of making small changes in feedstuffs. This is applicable for new ingredients or simply switching forage piles, crops or feeding site.

•Manage starch fermentability changes
As fermented feeds are allowed to sit undisturbed, the cell wall softens and the hull of the kernel becomes more pliable. Are these changes the real reason for displaced abomasums (DAs) in the spring?

•Balance diets for what can be measured consistently
It is difficult to achieve maximum production if diets are balanced based on nutrients not consistently measured.

•Take good samples
Without a good sample used for nutrient analysis, results are useless.

•Watch the cows
Nothing on paper can compensate for just taking the time to watch the cows! PD

—From 2006 Penn State Dairy Cattle Nutrition Workshop Proceedings

Dr. Dana M. Allen
Producer and Nutritionist

Q. In your opinion, where do large dairies usually fall short when feeding forages, and how can they improve?

Prevention is worth a thousand hours.

When we finish with harvest, no one leaves until one layer of plastic is laid down with tires around the perimeter. The next day, plastic is removed and a final pack is performed. We smooth the surface to minimize the opportunity for oxygen to get trapped in any uneven pockets. Tire tracks are just one example.

At feed-out, one employee is responsible for shaving the feed faces and removing all spoiled feed on the top of the pile. Minimizing the chance of one cow getting a mouthful of spoiled feed is the goal. We see the results in improved cow health and consistent cow performance.