Managing BMR and Conventional Varieties in the Same Pile
What are you going to do with that BMR you planted this spring? The seed is already in the ground. You put it on your best ground to make sure It would grow. There is no turning back now. The stuff grew, you even sprung for the fungicide.
The seed salesman wants you to store it in a separate pile so you can see how it performs. Your nutritionist wants you to store it in a separate pile to make sure you can get it in front of your fresh and high cows.
That all sounds good. You intended to have some storage available for your BMR project. The clock is ticking and you still don’t have a solution as to where you want to store it. Harvest is coming, and chances are, the BMR will be ready before your conventional varieties.
The same problem had happened here a few years ago. Half of the corn silage acreage was planted to BMR and half was planted to conventional.
We would always put up a bag for a transition pile to feed the following fall while the new crop fermented. That was not my main storage area, and I had no interest in making as many bags as it was going to take to hold all of the BMR that was coming on.
My main corn silage storage is nothing glamourous, if anything, it might even be illegal in some states. Dirt floors with shale and clay walls are not exactly what you would design for first class feed storage.
The corn silage bunk used to be two bunks. A 40x 100 and a 25x 100 carved out of a shale bank. With a dirt wall left in the middle running the length of the pile to serve as a divider. The divider was a huge pain when it came to filling, covering, and feedout. The dividing wall did serve its purpose as being able to segregate another crop, but with a growing herd, it was in the way. Before harvest in 2014 we brought the dozer in and took the dirt wall out.
Removing the middle wall created a much bigger bunk. Which helped with filling. Now we can get three machines on the pile packing at any one time along with the trucks unloading. Before, we could only have one tractor packing while a truck was unloading. The bigger bunk size also created two problems.
- Now I have a 80 foot face
- Segregating the BMR from the Conventional wasn’t going to work, unless I created another bunk.
With equal acres in both BMR and conventional corn I just couldn’t see where I was going to separate the two crops. Regardless, I was now going to have an 80 foot face to deal with. There was no way I wanted another pile open when I had that kind of face to try and keep fresh.
I decided to fill the whole bunk at once and try to split the face at feedout.
We covered the dirt sidewalls and back wall with plastic. We put in roughly 2000 tons of BMR. Making the wedge deeper towards the back with the idea that we would feed BMR heavier in the hot months. At the end of chopping, the last of the BMR, our conventional corn looked to be about 10 days away from harvest. We used a handheld grass seeder and spread dry propionic acid over the pile before we pulled the plastic over it and put just enough tires down so it wouldn’t blow away.
In a week, our conventional corn was ready to go. We pulled the tires and plastic off, the partially fermented feed looked great, with no visible signs of mold. We went right to chopping and covered the BMR with 2500 tons of conventional corn right on top. Driving over the pile to unload and filling from the back to the front. We ended up with a pile in the fall of 2014 that was going to feedout a heavy rate of conventional corn silage in the fall but gradually get into more BMR after the 1st of the year.
Like many herds with a large bunk face, I split the pile for feedout in 2014. I wanted a narrower face to manage and I was anxious to get back into the BMR as fast as I could. It took me from early September to Christmas to hit the BMR. I knew when I hit it too. The tires on the back of my front end loader came off the ground when I hit that line, it was well packed.
As the year went on I would try to put an estimate on how much of the face was BMR and how much was conventional. It is hard to tell just by looking at the pile.
The cows, though, they noticed. The milk started to come kind of like how a good hydrant gives you water. Pull the handle and fill your bucket.
The best measuring stick for how much BMR was going in the cows is what the manure looks like coming out of them. If I saw manure that would pile about 1.5 inches high and have a dimple in the middle, I considered that to be good. If I could visibly see some undigested corn silage particles I would bring in a little dry hay to slow the rate of passage. By a little, I mean I would swap out .10lb DM of corn silage for .10lb DM or dry hay in the diet. If the manure was too loose or soupy with bubbles in it, I assumed we were pushing the envelope for starch, being too high in starch and possibly entering early stages of acidosis. If that was the case, I would take out .10lb DM of cornmeal and replace it with .10lb DM of corn silage until I felt the manure was where it should be for a healthy cow. Over the course of the season BMR helped us replace 1.5 DM lbs of cornmeal per cow per day.
Going into the 2015 season I had 600 tons of BMR in bags to use as a transition pile during harvest. With a back wall, once you start filling, you won’t see anything that is left in the bunk until next year. I really wanted more fully fermented BMR corn silage on hand that I could feed while the new crop fermented. Having a back wall is really a pain for building a forage inventory. We put 1000 ton of BMR in bags to use as a transition pile for the 2016 season. Which is nice now but, that didn’t help in 2015. The other 1500 tons of BMR went in the bottom of my bunk just like I did the year before. Only this time the conventional corn was ready to go right after BMR. There was no down time where we had to cover the pile in between the two harvests.
The only other change I made for 2015 was not splitting the bunk at feedout. This year I have been feeding along the face of the whole 80 feet. Overall I have no complaints of managing the face. In 2014, when I split the bunk, I had a hard time keeping the edge straight, fighting off birds, and having a large open side of plastic always flapping in the wind. Feedout has been in the neighborhood of 10 as-fed tons per day. The guessing of how much BMR is going to the cows is the same. You can really tell when you get into fully fermented BMR. About February the feed is fully cooked and we are feeding enough BMR to notice.
With February being the shortest month of the year it is always our lowest production month. We calve fairly even, right about 35 fresh cows per month. The graph above certainly shows when we are getting into the BMR corn silage. Our daily production will climb until hot weather hits. There is no doubt that hot weather slows production, but we don’t have a big crash like some herds. I attribute some of that to BMR. The design of the pile, going into the heaviest rate of BMR at the hottest time of the year, has allowed us to hold onto production through the heat.
Managing a mixed pile has not proven to be too big of a challenge. BMR corn silage is included in all milking and dry cow groups all year round this way. The percentage of BMR in the diet is the lowest in the fall and increases as the year wears on.
If you are planning to harvest BMR corn silage this fall. Keep these tips in mind.
- Let it fully ferment (3-4 months).
- Design your storage to have the BMR available in hot weather.
- BMR can work in a one group TMR. You do not need 10 different diets
- Watch the cows, watch the manure.
Carefully walking the pens and monitoring the condition of the manure is what has been making the program successful. You do not need to make big adjustments to incorporate BMR in your feed program. Go ahead. Try it!