for home delivery

How's your forage inventory?

Jon Rasmussen
Vita Plus

As I sat down to write about forage inventory evaluation, I received a phone call from a customer.  It was not the first time a customer has called asking if I could resend my latest inventory figures as they were meeting with their accountant the next morning, but the timing of the call made me think of the different perspectives for evaluating forage inventory.

Keeping accurate forage inventories help to guide management decisions.

On a dairy farm, you can find many individuals with different perspectives when it comes to forage inventory.  The big-picture perspective with diets and cows is that we need enough inventory of the right feeds to feed the desired number of animals for a desired amount of time – if it were only that easy.  Each cropping year has differences that change what is available and what can be used.  In years when inventory is short, very frequent measures and adjustments are needed.  Conversely, in years of plentiful inventory, the quality usually limits how much can be used.  This also makes valuing the inventory difficult.

Valuing the inventory in terms of dollars is where the phone call came in.  The reality is that the pile we often talk about is worth so much – that’s why we stress the importance of preserving dry matter with ideal harvest timing, proper packing, inoculating, sealing, and controlling feedout rates.  The pile’s quality is often tied to another type of green – dollars.

By completing a forage inventory after each crop, we can project how many additional tons will be required to meet the expectations of the current ration.  This will affect decisions to buy or sell crops and how many acres really need to be harvested.  By the end of a harvest season, inventory projections will also help guide decisions made during the winter of how many acres of hay to keep or corn to plant.  That large pile of dollars on the ground is responsible for a lot of high-value decisions!

To help with many of the complexities involved with forage inventory discussions, Vita Plus has a Feed Inventory Projector spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet can be used for simple calculations, such as how long a forage will last.  It can also evaluate complex scenarios to determine where feeds fall in a budget or in comparison diets.  Since the tool is a spreadsheet, several versions can be saved with different inventory dates to evaluate changes as crops get added in or subtracted.  You can also simulate scenarios for years you may be short on forage to facilitate developing needs.

The key to help answer the question “How’s your forage inventory?” is frequently evaluating the inventory and opportunities that come with it.  Some farms will need monthly measurement and others just quarterly.  Keeping tabs on the pile of money on the ground requires close supervision, not only for the animals, but also for many other aspects of the farm.

Rasmussen is a dairy technology specialist for Vita Plus