ANSWER: Springtime is when we put cows on pasture and when we plant our crops – alfalfa and field corn – which is fed to our cows.
This time of year, in April and early May, our dairy farm transitions from winter to spring. I love this time of the year: trees bud, the grass turns green, life starts new for all plants. Winter wheat and alfalfa comes out of dormancy, providing they haven’t had any winterkill.
It’s also time to start planting crops such as new alfalfa and grass seeding to feed the heifers and cows. Soon we will be in full swing of corn and soybean planting.
On the home farm, where we raise dairy, we will use about 100 acres of the field corn planted to feed our 150 cows. We use the corn for corn silage, which is chopping the entire plant and allowing it to ferment in a silo. The corn variety we choose for corn silage is tall and is highly digestible for feed; this gives us the most tons per acre and the most milk per ton fed. Highly digestible corn is corn that breaks down in the cow’s rumen stomach easily.
In the spring we do maintenance on pasture fence and make sure everything is ready for the cows to go out to pasture. Waterers and electric fence need to be checked to make sure they’re working properly. We have a small road going to the different pastures that we need to maintain – we will have to add ag lime to fill in any holes and eliminate mud.
It’s always enjoyable to watch the cows the first day we turn them out on pasture. They run around frolicking in the pasture. When the cows are on pasture it does ease our work load since we don’t have to bed the cows as much in the barns and milking is done with one large group rather than from multiple barns. The extra time gained is well appreciated since I spend many work hours in the tractor planting.
Before we start planting, the equipment needs to be ready to go. New planter chains are added to the row units, and insecticide boxes and planter meter units have all been calibrated. The soil finisher has new sweeps, and GPS guidance units have been updated. The tractors have had all their maintenance done and the equipment is greased and ready to go so we’re just waiting for the soil to warm up to the right temperature.
If the weather cooperates and it is a perfect spring we will be done planting by the middle of May. Then we will have time to start on our first cutting of hay. If weather does not cooperate we need to juggle things to get the first cutting of hay made in a timely manner so we have optimum protein in the hay.
Dairy farming is a year-round job but in the spring and the fall there’s extra fieldwork to do. And every year is a new challenge – that’s what makes farming and dairying enjoyable.
BILL DEUTSCH – FIFTH GENERATION DAIRY AND GRAIN FARMER, SYCAMORE
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