In the northern hemisphere, the harvesting season in over. Bales are stacked, forage pits are sealed. Now is the time to evaluate the past harvesting season in order to prepare for the next one. Use the winter season to evaluate, learn and look forward together with the farmer so that you can tackle potential problems before they arise.
Review and act
Take a few basic principles into account when discussing and evaluating with the farmer. During the harvesting season the forage equipment plays a vital role in feeding the cows. Suitable, well-maintained machinery contributes to fluent, effective feed management. Besides mechanical matters, you should also discuss management and feed-related issues.
Evaluate the past harvesting season
During this evaluation, try to find out if there were any bottlenecks that need to be discussed and if they can be solved. Items that could be discussed are;
• Does the farmer have enough mechanical capacity (mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting) during harvesting season? This is crucial if the farmer is to harvest at the most effective moment in order to capture maximum nutrients.
• Does the farmer needs additional wear parts for next season? Good preparation will limit the number of breakdowns during harvesting season.
The manual contains a specific maintenance guide for each machine. Remind the farmer to store, repair and prepare his forage equipment properly for the next season according to this guide.
• Clean the machine thoroughly; leaving forage behind will affect the machine’s performance next season
• Look over the machine and decide if certain wearing parts should be replaced
• Grease all of the machine’s greasing points
• Spray the entire machine with an anticorrosive agent
In addition to the mechanical aspects, you could also suggest that the farmer think about the following:
• Does the tillage plan / fertilizer plan still fit the farm’s strategy?
• Is the balance between the various crops in line with the feed strategy? (e.g. maize, grass, alfalfa, hay, straw)
• Is there enough storage capacity at the farm and is the handling equipment suitable?
• Is the actual storage method still in place? Or does the farmer want to shift from bales to bunk, or vice versa)
• Do arrangements for the next season need to be made in advance with the local contractor?
Each farmer will have specific goals to work towards. If these goals are to be reached, the management circle needs to be in place. Just now at the end of the growing season when the supply of forage is at its maximum, is the best time to evaluate the plan and adjust it if necessary, to achieve a higher milk yield or to improve feed efficiency. Proper harvest and feed equipment / management are crucial if these goals are to be met as the feed ration is fundamental to cows’ well being.