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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)











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Upcoming Events

Dairy Cattle Summer Research Update

July 18, 2019
Batavia, NY

After the day's work is done, come hear about two new research trials conducted by Julio Giordano's lab:
  • Strategies for improving dairy cattle reproductive performance and economics
  • Using automated sensors for improving dairy cattle health monitoring and management

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Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 ? Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today the availability of a new web-based tool - developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin - to help dairy producers evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized
DMC, a voluntary risk management program that offers financial 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. It replaces the program previously known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Sign up for this USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) program opens on June 17.

"With sign-up for the
DMC program just weeks away, we encourage producers to use this new support tool to help make decisions on participation in the program," Secretary Perdue said. "Dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, but the DMC program should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry."

The University of Wisconsin launched the decision support tool in cooperation with FSA and funded through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. The tool was designed to help producers determine the level of coverage under a variety of conditions that will provide them with the strongest financial safety net. It allows farmers to simplify their coverage level selection by combining operation data and other key variables to calculate coverage needs based on price projections.

The decision tool assists producers with calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees associated with participation in
DMC. It also forecasts payments that will be made during the coverage year.

The new Dairy Margin Coverage program offers very appealing options for all dairy farmers to reduce their net income risk due to volatility in milk or feed prices," said Dr. Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Higher coverage levels, monthly payments, and more flexible production coverage options are especially helpful for the sizable majority of farms who can cover much of their milk production with the new five million pound maximum for Tier 1 premiums. This program deserves the careful consideration of all dairy farmers."

For more information, access the tool at For
DMC sign up, eligibility and related program information, visit or contact your local USDA Service Center. To locate your local FSA office, visit

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