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Taking Forage Inventories

Bill Verbeten, Field Crops
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

January 2, 2013
Taking Forage Inventories

With the poor haylage harvests across western New York this past summer there is a lot of concern about having enough feed to make it through the winter on a lot of farms. It is very important to determine how long feed will last now while many management options are still on the table. Once an inventory is taken, adjustments can be made to get the most out of silages and hay on hand. Farms that had timely rainfalls and reasonable yields this past year can also benefit from knowing how much feed they have on hand. Selling extra feed will provide additional income and also help other farmers across the region meet their needs.

Preliminary silage inventories can be taken while filling silos by recording wagon weights and dry matter content. With good management, silage storage losses are generally < 10% DM and feed out losses are < 3% DM. Minimizing the area of silos exposed to air and feeding out at least 4 inches a day can keep these combined losses from climbing to 20-50% DM loss. If silage weights were not taken prior to storage, measurements of silage dry matter, volume, and bulk density will be necessary to determine feed inventory.

DM% * Feed Volume * Bulk Density = Forage DM Inventory

Dry matter content is given on most forage quality lab analyses and this measurement can be done on farm with an NIRS unit, a Koster tester, or even a microwave to account for weekly, or even daily dry matter variation with precipitation.

To calculate the feed volume in bunker silos, separate the rectangular and triangular sections. The feed volume of upright silos and silo bags can be calculated in one step. For feed volume equations see Figure 1.

Bulk density measures how tightly the feed material is packed. Higher bulk density means more material in a given volume.

The bulk density of most silages range from 10 to 20 lbs DM/ft3, with about 14 lbs DM/ft3 considered ideal, approximately 40 lbs As Fed/ft3). Measuring is necessary to determine an accurate bulk density. One method for measuring bulk density is the following: drill with a 12+ in probe into the face of the bunker or bag in at least a dozen locations, dry and weigh the feed, then divide the total dry weight by the volume sampled. However, drilling with a probe is time consuming, can be dangerous, and the accuracy can be compromised if the whole silo face is not represented by the sample locations.

Bulk density is more commonly measured by taking the load weights multiplied by silage DM% then dividing by the volume of feed removed. Accurate measurements of silage DM% and load weights, evenly facing the bunk/bag, and correctly calculating the volume removed are vital to making this method of bulk density work. Bulk density is not consistence in vertical silos, because the bulk density is greater at the bottom of the silo (~21 lbs DM/ft3) compared to the top of the silo (~7 lbs DM/ft3).

For every silage structure, multiply the dry matter, volume, and bulk density to determine the amount of feed on the farm.

Dry hay inventories should also be taken by multiplying the average DM% from a group of bales with the average bale weight and the number of bales.

Once forage inventories are taken, the rate of feed removal needs to be determined. If silage and hay are weighed on a daily basis, then the daily forage removal = total forage weight fed * forage DM%. For farmers who don't weigh their forages directly, daily forage removal can be estimated by multiplying the DM weight of each forage fed to each animal by the number of animals for each feeding group.

Remaining forage/daily forage removal = days of forage remaining. Once this is known, management decisions can be made in order to avoid running out of feed. For discussion of forage inventory management see my blog at   

Figure 1: Feed Volume Equations (pdf; 5KB)











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Beginning Farmer/Hobby Farmer Workshop $5/pp, class size is limited, so pre-register by April 15th!

April 27, 2019
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Canandaigua, NY

This hands-on workshop is for beginning or part-time farmers who would like to improve their farm machinery skills, learn to properly and safely maintain their equipment to protect their investment. If you have been thinking about buying a tractor, new or used, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, compact or utility or more come join us. Topics include: selecting the right size/type tractor for the job; basic maintenance; staying safe around tractors and equipment; attaching implements properly; and information about ROPS and SMV's. There will be time for questions.

Pre-registration requested by April 15, 2019 email Amy with your name, address, and phone number or call 585-394-3977 x 429.
Fee: $5.00/person. Class size is limited.

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2019 Pastured Poultry Seminar, lunch included so please register by May 10th! $25/person

May 18, 2019
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.w/ coffee & donuts with the Program running from 9:00 a.m. - 5 p. m.
Attica, NY

The main speaker this year is Eli Reiff of Mifflinburg Pennsylvania. Eli raises broilers, turkeys, sheep, and beef, all on pasture. Topics to be covered will include the pasture, feed and nutrition, marketing, costs, and much more. As we grow as farm operators and get bigger, we may not pay as much attention to the basics as we should. So those areas are where we will start, and then expand to cover the group's interests.

Mike Badger, Director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association will also be available for a round-table discussion. Plans are to have representatives from Farm Bureau, NYCAMH for farm health and safety, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, as well as others.

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Calling all 9th-12th graders! 4th Annual Precision Agriculture Day at Genesee Community College

May 21, 2019
9:00 am - 1:30 pm Register by Friday May 10th! $15/per person includes lunch
Batavia, NY

Calling all 9th-12th graders!  We have an exciting new program for students interested in technology, science, engineering, and agriculture!
Would you like to:
  • Learn about how Drones collect information
  • Check out some potential career opportunities that have new and ever-changing technology
  • Learn how these technologies can be used in our own backyards in WNY
  • Discover potential and exciting career opportunities

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Producers Previously Enrolled in the LGM Program Now Eligible for MPP

Dairy Producers Previously Enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin Program Now Eligible for 2018 Margin Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program (LGM-Dairy) now have the opportunity to participate in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) for 2018 coverage. Sign-up will take place March 25 through May 10, 2019.
Eligible producers can enroll during the sign-up period at their local USDA service center. To locate your office, visit

Smart Farming Team Technical Assistance Grant Application

The Labor Ready Farmer Project is offering grants to provide up to 12 hours of Technical Assistance (TA) consulting services to farms who want to make improvements to their farm's processes in hiring, training, managing or evaluating employees. Applicants will choose from one of the following four areas for TA assistance and identify a specific project. If selected they will be matched with a "Smart Farming Team" of consultants who will provide one on one technical assistance.
Please complete this application and send to Nicole Waters, Beginning Farm Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. The form can be submitted by email, mail or in-person at the address listed below. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.

Nicole Waters - Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator
Plant Science Building, Room 15b
Tower Road, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-255-9911

Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

USDA Announces January Income over Feed Cost Margin Triggers First 2019 Dairy Sa

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2019 ? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that the January 2019 income over feed cost margin was $7.99 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment for eligible dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new but yet-to-be established Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, is a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers that was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that sign up for 
DMC will open by mid-June of this year. At the time of sign up, producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $8.00 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January 2019.

For example, a dairy operation with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) that elects the $9.50 coverage level for 50 percent of its production could potentially be eligible to receive $1,887.50 for January.

Sample calculation:
$9.50 - $7.99 margin = $1.51 difference
$1.51 times 50 percent of production times 2,500 cwt. (30,000 cwt./12) = $1,887.50

The calculated annual premium for coverage at $9.50 on 50 percent of a 3-million-pound production history for this example would be $2,250.

Sample calculation:
3,000,000 times 50 percent = 1,500,000/100 = 15,000 cwt. times 0.150 premium fee = $2,250

Operations making a one-time election to participate in DMC through 2023 are eligible to receive a 25 percent discount on their premium for the existing margin coverage rates.

"Congress created the Dairy Margin Coverage program to provide an important financial safety net for dairy producers, helping them weather shifting milk and feed prices," FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. "This program builds on the previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy, carrying forward many of the program upgrades made last year based on feedback from producers. We're working diligently to implement the DMC program and other FSA programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill."

Additional details about DMC and other FSA farm bill program changes can be found at

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1