Forage Superbowl Winner Shares Secrets of Success

 

Wisconsin Farmer Producer Nearly Doubles the Average Wisconsin Yield

Dan Kamps placed second in the commercial hay division at the 2017 World Forage Superbowl and has twice won overall champion. He achieved these wins with solid planning, sound farming practices, and by paying close attention to details. He also enlisted top-notch professional advice and adapted the Maximum Farming System.

Kamps and his family have operated Kamps Alfalfa Farms near Darlington, Wisconsin, since 1979. He and his wife, Ruth, started on a farm his dad once rented and have since expanded to 890 acres which is supplemented with 190 rented acres. Of those acres, 350 to 450 of them go into alfalfa, depending on the year. Corn and oats/alfalfa seeding are grown on the remaining ground with extra feed grown for a 250 head Angus cow/calf and finishing operation.

A 2,500 head dairy moved nearby several years ago and the Kamps saw the opportunity to work with it and provide a feed source.

"We're now able to get one more cutting a year.
We cust at 23 to 25 day intervals."

 

“The first year we sold hay to the dairy was a dry year to supplement its diminished crop,” he says. “We then determined we could meet their schedule, so four years ago, we started chopping the alfalfa and selling it as haylage.”

Opportunity realized with quality

Last year, Kamps agreed to sell the hay on a relative forage quality basis. The challenge is paying off for the farm and the dairy.

“When we sold hay in the past, we’d end up with 30 percent of it as premium, 20 percent of it was really good, but the rest was hay for dry cows or beef cows,” Kamps says. In the past five to seven years the Kamps have observed their alfalfa quality increase an average of 25 points in relative feed quality and the yield increased a ton and a half. The corn and oats/ alfalfa seeding increase has been approximately 20 percent.

“We’re now able to get one more cutting a year,” he adds. “We cut at 23 to 25 day intervals. Our fields green up faster and produce more stems per plant than they did before. By chopping the hay, we generally get it off the field in a day’s time which helps make the hay more consistent on the next cutting.”

The proof

Evidence of the Kamps’ hard work is in the relative forage quality results from the Forage Superbowl. On a dry matter basis, crude protein came in at 28.28%, ADF (Acid Digestive Fiber) was 17.42%, NDFD percentage in a 30-hour IV NDFD (In Vitro Neutral Detergent Fiber Digestibility) registered 57.14%, and relative forage quality scored 342, which translates into 3,904 pounds of milk produced per ton of hay.

“This amount of milk per ton is similar to what we normally see for corn silage,” Kamps says. “Plus, this was first-crop hay.” Eye-popping results like these didn’t happen overnight, he adds.

“We experimented with foliar feeding 10 years ago before going with Ag Spectrum,” Kamps says. “We saw some response, but had some concern with leaf spots. We’re now using the Maximum Farming System with our hay, corn and oats.

"Now, we get higher quality, healthier plants, and more stems per plant, which thickens up the hay."

 

“Ten to 14 days after we cut our hay, we foliar feed it with PT-21, KickOff and GroZyme®, N-Boron and NitroMn. We add an insecticide and fungicide. Next year we plan to spray our first crop when it first comes up and again two weeks before we cut it. We always spray the oats twice and see a much faster regrowth on the second cutting. This is why we wanted to try it on alfalfa.”

Currently Kamps is averaging between 6.5 and 8 tons of dry matter per acre from his alfalfa stands. He thinks they can do better.

Yield isn’t Kamps’ only measure of success. “Before we were using the Maximum Farming System, we put down 600 to 700 pounds of potash a year,” he says. “Now, we get higher quality, healthier plants and more stems per plant, which thickens up the hay, keeps out weeds, and gives us higher quality hay overall. Now he applies 100-200 pounds of K/acre, when necessary, for a significant savings.

Dairy personnel are on top of monitoring the moisture that ends up in a bunk. They share feedback from the test with Kamps so he can continue improving hay quality. This ongoing improvement will help both operations as the dairy will soon double in size and Kamps will continue to be a supplier.

Switching to strip till has helped, too. It improves the ground for corn, which in turn makes the field ready for alfalfa. Plus, it requires less labor and gives them some time and flexibility when corn harvest competes with fall tillage.

Ag Spectrum specialists support the Kamps year-round and has for several years. He takes tissue tests and spends a half day or more each cutting walking the fields with his Ag Spectrum associate.

Matt Vickers, Area Manager, says Kamps’ early innovator approach to growing crops is evident throughout the operation. “Dan understands that the plants are sensitive to the right form of nutrition at the right time. He’s applying fewer inputs than one would normally use and getting more corn, more oats, and more alfalfa per acre. It makes good management and good economic sense.”

The Maximum Farming System is a key component of a winning farm business strategy that’s helping the Kamps improve crop quality and meet the needs of a customer’s growing business.