Submitted to: Dairy Herd Management Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 30, 1996
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Dairy farmers face complicated decisions as they plan the future of their operations. Labor availability and management, low milk prices, and increasing feed prices are reducing the profitability and general success of dairy farms. Decisions such as the type of forage produced, the amount of forage fed, and the harvest and storage systems used are thus becoming increasingly important. As we look to the future, environmental concerns also will impact the industry. In order to maintain a right to farm, farmers are becoming obligated to maintain a minimal impact on the environment surrounding the farm. How does one manage all the information needed to make wise, informed decisions? This is not an easy task, but there are tools that can help. Computer simulation models are becoming practical tools for studying the performance of farming systems and their interaction with weather without jeopardizing the performance of the real farm. DAFOSYM is a simulation model specifically designed for the dairy farm. With this model, a typical dairy farm can be described and simulated over many years of weather at a given location. By simulating several dairy forage systems for the same base farm and weather, the long term performance and economics can be compared to determine the best options. Information generated can guide dairy producers toward more well informed strategic decisions as they plan their future.
Technical Abstract: The long term performance and economics of forage systems are best compared using a simulation model of the dairy farm called DAFOSYM. Simulations illustrate that either alfalfa or corn silages provide good forages for dairy farms in the Midwest. Although there are not large economic differences when using various portions of alfalfa and corn silage, a mix of one third to one half corn silage may be preferred. This mix reduces economic risk, spreads labor requirements more uniformly throughout the production season and it provides the best long term nutrient balance for the whole farm. When expanding silage storage, bagged silage may be the most economical option, but the inconvenience of handling and disposal of plastic bags must be considered. Dry hay systems can be an economical forage system, particularly for small farms. For Midwest farmers who prefer to use total mixed ration feeding, systems which predominately use silages are most convenient and most economical. For those interested in further analysis and comparison of dairy systems, a Windows version of DAFOSYM is available from the home page of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center (http://www.dfrc.wisc.edu).