Using grasses to optimize fiber content in dairy rations

Improvements in corn and alfalfa varieties and crop management may result in very energy- dense dairy feeds, but lower fiber content can become a concern.

To meet the needs of high-performing dairy cows, producers raise the best possible forage crops, including corn silage and alfalfa haylage or hay. There has been strong focus on highly digestible fiber in corn varieties because it increases energy value of the forage. Alfalfa fiber digestibility and feed energy value, as well as protein content, are increased by harvesting at reduced maturity, but this can result in dairy rations that do not contain enough effective fiber to maintain good rumen and animal health. To increase effective fiber content, some farmers have been feeding fiber sources such as grass hay, forage sorghum, sorghum-sudangrass or even straw.

In an effort to bring this issue into focus, Michigan State University Extension is organizing a forage field day at Brock Farms in Daggett, Michigan (Menominee County). The Brocks milk around 800 Holstein cattle, making them one of the largest dairy operations in the Upper Peninsula. Steve Brock will share his experiences and observations regarding the fiber issue. Farmers and others attending the field day will have a great opportunity to discuss this and other important concerns in an informal setting. MSU Forage Specialist, Kim Cassida and MSU Extension educators will also contribute to the program.

MSU Extension Forage Field Day
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 – 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. central time
Brock Farms, Steve Brock
W5186 Co Rd 360
Daggett, MI 49821


This free, educational on-farm field day program is intended for dairy farmers and others interested in high quality forage production. Host farmer Steve Brock, MSU State Forage Specialist Dr. Kim Cassida and MSU Extension educators will be on-hand to lead discussion, present research-based forage information, and respond to questions. The program will start at 11 a.m. central time (12 p.m. eastern time) at Brock Farms, located at W5186 Co Rd 360, Daggett, MI 49821. The meeting will conclude by 1 p.m. central time (2 p.m. eastern time).

Topics planned for the field day include:

  • Optimizing fiber content in dairy rations using grasses
  • Impact of cover crops on Brock Farms
  • Mixed alfalfa-grass seedings – which grass species to include?
  • Ways to reduce cost of production for corn
  • Additional topics will be determined by participant interest

Lunch will be provided, sponsored by the Menominee County Farm Bureau. This program is part of a series of U.P. forage field days supported by a grant from Project GREEEN.


11 a.m. (central time) – Meet at Brock Farm
     Farm description and forage production practices and challenges – Steve Brock
11:30 – 12:00 – Getting fiber into the dairy diet: Dr. Kim Cassida
12:00 – Lunch sponsored by Menominee Co Farm Bureau
12:30 – Ideas for reducing corn cost of production – Jim Isleib, MSU Extension
12:45 – Cover crops in forage systems – Frank Wardysnki, MSU Extension and Dr. Kim Cassida
1 p.m. – Wrap up


Please call Jim Isleib at 906-387-2530 to register. Leave a message if calling after office hours. This is needed to arrange for lunch arrangements and on-farm transportation.

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