Twenty years ago Joe Hofacker had maxed out at 70 pounds of milk per cow per day. Improved genetics, working closer with a nutritionist, plus his veterinarian and better quality feed have allowed him to now consistently sustain an 80 pound per day milk production level with a herd average of 23,000 to 24,000 pounds. “Herd health has been excellent for us,” says Hofacker. “Knock on wood. Teaming superior feed, working with a good nutritionist, solid genetics and paying attention to detail keeps health problems at a minimum.
“If we didn’t have the Harvestores, we would struggle to maintain consistent feed quality which would ultimately lead to more herd health issues and less milk in the tank,” he adds. Hofacker farms with his brothers, Mike and John. Joe milks and feeds heifers, Mike milks and feeds the cows and John feeds calves and milks. They are the third generation and followed their father, John, on the 700-acre farm across a two-mile radius on which they raise corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. Their livestock inventory is 270 cows and 300 head of young stock. The Hofackers have four Harvestores, including a 25 x 80 erected in 1983 for haylage and expanded to a 25 x 95 in 1995; a 20 x 60 built in 1985 for high moisture corn and expanded to a 20 x 95; a 25 x 95 for haylage that went up in 1992; and a 25 x 95 built in 2001 for corn silage.
The Hofackers say unloading speeded up when they installed an Alliance unloader with the 25 x 95 ft. haylage unit in 1992.”It works great and feeds out fast. It’s an easy-in and easy-out equation. Haylage comes out 20 to 25 percent faster now,” Hofacker says. “The entire feeding process takes less time, there is better efficiency, less down time and less labor is needed to complete the job. When feeding, the unloader doesn’t run as long as before so wear and tear is minimized.” With the new Alliance unloader, it’s possible to put forage in with 5 to 10 percent more moisture, critical to production, especially if faced by inconsistent weather.
“The unloader handles the problem and we can also split the crop and fill two different units. I would like to have another Harvestore and have extra feed available as needed. This year hay is tight. Figuring the cost of hay versus the unit, the cost would even out in 10 to 15 years. Pulling one unloader and going into another unit can easily be done,” he says. The dairy producer has compared Harvestores with bags and bunkers. “I feel there is no comparison between bags and bunkers and a Harvestore. Why? The number one reason is waste. It’s always there with a bunker and bags,” he adds. “The cows lick up everything. When you have spoiled feed it only ends up in the manure pit.”
“A bunker needs 100 to 150 acres, much more volume, to be filled quickly and be compacted successfully. If alfalfa gets too mature it doesn’t pack properly. You run into problems and losses start to mount. A bunker requires so much time and labor to pack,” he adds.
He says Harvestores pay for themselves over the long run. “They feed out quickly and you can cut 20 to 40 acres and fill the structure immediately. If you happened to get a wetter than normal crop you can blend it with drier feed by splitting the ration between two separate units,” he says.
“With two Harvestores and a loader it’s possible to mix and match feed sources, especially if a crop has been rained on or has too high of a moisture content. Running a test on the feed can provide a good fix on what kind of feed is coming out at a particular time. If it’s subpar, we can immediately switch it to young stock and come back with better haylage for the milking herd,” he explains.
Hofacker says feed coming out of the Harvestore is consistent and uniform. “We know because we have tested it,” he adds. “What goes in comes out first. There is no smell and you can get seepage with a bunker. Another perk with the Harvestore is that the feed can stay in the structure for a longer period of time with very minimal spoilage penetration. Meanwhile having bags on dirt is messy, they rupture and are hard to dispose of.” Economically, Hofacker says Harvestores compare well.
“With bags, there is a throw away every year. With a bunker, feed quality can bite you. In a dairy operation you can’t afford to feed your cows poor quality feed,” he concludes.”That’s why we are sold on Harvestores. We’ve had great success with them. Haylage needs to be put in a silo, not a bunker. For us Harvestores boil down to feed quality, profitability, convenience and return on investment.”