Nebraska Dairy - October 2015

Should you be using cover crops on your corn silage fields?

By Mary Drewnoski

Well that is a simple question to answer. YES. From a soil standpoint having something on corn silage fields after harvest can decrease erosion, increase soil organic matter, improve soil aggregation, improve water infiltration as well as prevent N leaching.

Now what you should plant is an entirely different question. This will depend on your potential planting date and your goals. Are you interested in using the cover crop as a source of forage, called a double cropped forage, as well as improving the soil?

Cover crops can provide additional root biomass that can stabilize soil and maintain or improve soil properties even when a significant portion of aboveground biomass is removed as forage. However, some top growth should be maintained to provide soil cover and reduce erosion. Corn silage is often harvested early enough that winter sensitive species such as oat and brassica (such as turnips) can be planted with enough time to accumulate adequate growth for fall grazing. Using winter sensitive species (oats or spring wheat, triticale or barley) will increase fall growth over planting winter hardy species (cereal rye, winter wheat, triticale or barley). Brassicas tend to be a low cost source of forage but can’t be grazed in a monoculture because they are too low in fiber and too high in S. Therefore we recommend planting 40 to 50 lbs of oats and 3 to 4 lbs of turnips (purple top or hybrid) for grazing. This can be a good option for developing heifers as the quality of oats and brassicas is extremely good. The oats and brassicas will die after several hard freezes and forage will look yellow. However, quality is maintained.

When grazing in the winter, gains of 1.5 to 2.0 lb/d can be achieved. Forage yields of one to two tons per acre can be achieved with early planting (last week of August to first week in September) and when grazing one heifer per acre 50 to 70 days of grazing is typical. There is some risk of crop failure (low forage yield). However, the costs are low enough that the successful years will more than make up for years in which failure occurs. Being able to irrigate to get the stand started, if needed, will substantially reduce the risk of a crop failure. Every day you delay is lost forage and yields will significantly drop off after the first week in September. If planting occurs before or during the first week of September, then fall grazing is a viable option. However, if planting is delayed until after the first week in September, the best option is to plant a winter-hardy annual small grain, such as cereal rye or winter triticale, and graze with heifers or harvest as silage in spring.

In terms of spring forage production, cereal rye matures earlier than triticale or wheat. If you plan to graze or harvest before mid-May, it is likely that cereal rye will have greater yields. If you plan to harvest after mid-May, triticale may produce greater yields. For cereal rye or triticale it is recommended that you plant between 80 to 100 lb/ac of seed. Typically forge yields will decrease when planting after the middle of September. Although planting as late as early October will still improve yields over that of spring planting.

Regardless of what you choose to plant having something growing after corn silage harvest from a stewardship perspective just makes sense. For more information about how to use cover crops for forage see the NebGuide: Annual cool-season forages for late-fall or early-spring double crop at

Meet Rod Johnson

Rod Johnson is Industry Relations Manager for the Nebraska Division of the Midwest Dairy Association, as well as Executive Director of the Nebraska State Dairy Association. Rod grew up on a diversified farm in Phelps County, graduated from Holdrege High School, and received a Business Degree from Midland College.

Rod’s entire career has been connected with production agriculture. He has been in Association work for about 25 years, and assumed his current position after the merger in 2011 of the Nebraska Dairy Council with Midwest Dairy Association.

Nebraska, a great place to find protein for your dairy cows!

By Paul Kononoff, PhD; Dairy Nutrition Specialist/Associate Professor of Dairy Nutrition

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

We, in Nebraska, are fortunate for the ample and locally produced feed supplies. A dairy cow consuming 50 pounds of dry matter typically may consume over 8 pounds of protein daily. To convert this feed protein into milk protein, high quality feeds must be used.

Last year, Nebraska produced 288 million bushels of soybeans, placing among the nations top five producing states. Many of the soybeans are further processed to remove oil, a process which produces soybean meal, a high quality dairy feed.. The crude protein content of soybean meal accounts for roughly half of the dry matter in the feed and about 70 % of the soybean meal is used directly by rumen microbes. These microbes degrade or break down this protein to synthesize their own amino acids and when these microbes die, they wash out of the rumen, and, in turn, supply amino acids to the cow. The remaining 30 % is referred to as rumen undegradable protein or RUP. This protein is not degraded by rumen microbes and passes through the rumen reaching the small intestine where it is then digested by the cow. Soybean meal, which is processed with the addition of heat, results in less protein degraded by rumen microbes and allows for more protein directly available to the cows to produce milk protein.

Research has shown that heat processing may increase RUP of soybean meal to as much as 70%. There are a number of different methods of heat processing soybean meal, but the main principle is to induce the same chemical reaction. This is the same reaction you employ each time you make toasted bread. This simple chemical reaction is known as the “Maillard reaction” which is a reaction between amino acids and sugars. The result is a chemical structure that protects the protein from being broken down in the rumen and makes it directly available to the small intestine of the cow.

In addition to being a major site of soybean production, Nebraska is also a major state, which proudly produces heat-treated soybean meal for the benefit of dairy producers. These feeds represent abundant,, safe and high quality sources of protein for the dairy industry in Nebraska and the nation as a whole.

World Dairy Expo - A First Timers Experience

By Kim Clark

September 30-October 2, I had the opportunity to attend World Dairy Expo (WDE) in Madison, Wisconsin. This was my first time attending WDE and I can't say I was disappointed. The purpose of the trip was two-fold: 1) to work in the Grow Nebraska Dairy booth, 2) to meet and network with dairy farmers and others in the dairy industry.

The Grow Nebraska Dairy team - Alliance for the Future of Agriculture (AFAN), Nebraska State Dairy Association (NSDA), Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Nebraska Extension - had a booth to promote Nebraska and the opportunities Nebraska holds for dairy processors and to put Nebraska on the map. You wouldn't believe how many times I was asked where Nebraska is located and isn't Nebraska barren?!

While in Wisconsin, I took time to attend the Dairy Girl Network event on Wednesday event thanks to the urging of several Nebraska dairy women. It was a great networking event where I met many great dairy women that I will become friends with and work with in the future.

World Dairy Expo was an exceptional experience that generated meetings with potential milk processors and gave me the ability to meet Nebraska dairy farmers, dairy farmers from other states, and network with colleagues in the dairy industry. I wouldn't have made those key connections without attending WDE. As a new Extension Educator, it is opportunities such as WDE that create the connections and program ideas for the benefit of dairy farmers.

Meet Mary Drewnoski - Cropping & livestock systems specialist

Mary Drewnoski joined UNL as a Beef Systems Specialist in April of 2014. She is part of an interdisciplinary team evaluating Economical Systems for Integrated Crop and Livestock Production. Having both cattle and cropping enterprises using the same land base involves balancing complex plant-animal-soil-economic-social interactions to optimize production. The research and outreach of this team is facilitated by a multi-disciplinary approach in which the animal and forage management and the effects on the cash cropping system and soil properties are evaluated to allow for a full system analysis. The targeted impact of this team is to increase the efficiency and sustainability of both cropping and livestock operations in Nebraska by increasing the use of crop residues and double cropped forages. She has expertise in beef cattle nutrition, forage production, and grazing management. Her teammates are Daren Redfearn a Forage Specialist and Jay Parsons a Biosystems Economist.

USDA Extends Dairy Margin Protection Program Deadline

Lincoln, NE, Sept. 22, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the deadline to enroll for the dairy Margin Protection Program for coverage in 2016 has been extended until Nov. 20, 2015. The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.

“The fall harvest is a busy time of the year for agriculture, so this extension will ensure that dairy producers have more time to make their choices,” said Vilsack. “We encourage all operations to examine the protections offered by this program, because despite the very best forecasts, markets can change.”

Vilsack encouraged producers to use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Agency Service (FSA) online Web resource at to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation. The secure website can be accessed via computer, smartphone or tablet.

To enroll in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, contact your local FSA county office. To find your local FSA county office, visit

For more information, visit

Calendar of Events

21 - Calf Care Connection workshop; Sioux Center, IA; this one day workshop will give you all the skills and techniques for optimal calf growth and health.
29 - I29 Heifer Growers Tour; 1 day, 4 stops; visit for more details and registration or see the flyer below.

2-5 - American Dairy Science Association Discover Conference; Itasca, IL
5 - DATE CHANGE: Midwest Dairy Association meeting; Lincoln, NE
5 - Nebraska Agribusiness Club banquet honoring Doug Nuttleman; Click here for banquet information and reservations.
20 - Dairy Margin Protection Program deadline

2 - Farm transition workshop; 9:30 am-3:00 pm, Hartington VFW with Dave Goeller and Joe Goeller presenting and answering questions.

11-15 - What is Your Pregnant Cow Worth??? I29 Dairy Outreach Consortium Winter Workshop; location and details coming

2 - NSDA State Convention; Columbus, NE
9-11 - World Ag Expo; Tulare, CA
Big image

Grow Nebraska Dairy Update

As we work to expand milking cow numbers, we have to overcome the lack of milk processors in Nebraska. The Grow Nebraska Dairy team is continuing to work on the addition of processors in Nebraska.

The middle of September, several members of the Grow Nebraska Dairy team traveled to Chicago, IL for a Dairy Processors convention. They received many great contacts they will be following up on.

The team also set up a booth at World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI the end of September and held additional meetings with dairy processors to highlight Nebraska. As with the Chicago processors convention, the team is following up on contacts and leads.