CHATFIELD, Minn. – The push is on to secure enough feed to get the herd through the winter, and for once, the weather is cooperating. The main goal is to put up dry hay, but plans are also being made for silage corn, late fall green chop oats and securing grain corn sources.
“Weather-wise, it’s been really good. We've only got a little rain, and after that storm, all the humidity went away, so it's been really drying up,” said Lucas Kappers.
By late July/early August, the second cutting of hay was finishing up – 15 racks filled with 130-150 small square bales – all of which will be loaded and stacked into the hay loft in the barn.
The big red barn on the Kappers farm was built in the 1800s. They are not sure of the exact year, but they have been storing hay bales in the loft every year since they started farming.
“When I was a little kid, like four or five years old, I couldn’t lift them yet. One summer the Chatfield wrestling team came out and that's was one of their workouts, helping us put up all this hay,” said Lucas.
The Kappers used to store quite a bit more hay in their barn, but this year they’ll get 3-4 stacks deep in the loft. During the years the wrestling team helped load hay, they’d packed away 17 stacks of hay bales.
Last winter, the hay supply ran short, so some of this year’s hay is already being fed. In addition, putting up hay in general this summer has been challenging and everyone is behind.
Somehow, summer and fall forages will need to be stretched as late into the year as possible in order to preserve the winter stocks.
By the river, there is a small field that has been flooded for most of the season and nothing has been done to it.
“We're trying to see if we can get in there now and seed oats,” he said. “That way, it'll come up before it gets too cold.”
The plan then would be to green chop and feed those oats for as long as they can into the fall.
Corn silage will make up the bulk of the winter ration, so that also has to be secured and lined up.
“The corn that we're going to buy from our neighbors is actually looking pretty good,” he said.
They also feed dry grain corn to the cattle and purchase that from one of two local feed mills. Because they direct market all the milk the produce, they would prefer to feed the cattle a non-GMO corn variety.
“For us personally, we're not as big on non-GMO, actually depending on how it's modified. In most cases, GMO corn is a good thing,” he said. “Typically on the retail end, the consumer almost is always looking for a non-GMO or an organic product.”
Going full organic production is a direction the Kappers have no intention of going. They want the ability to properly treat any sick cattle with antibiotics without having to remove them from the herd.
This is a conversation they have had and are willing to have with any of their customers. But, in a direct market relationship, the producer still needs to be willing to make compromises for the customer and going non-GMO is a concession the Kappers are willing to make.
The issue is more sourcing and securing a steady flow of non-GMO grain into the farm.
“CHS has it available, but it's kind of sparse as to when they have it and it costs a bunch more,” he said. “We're looking to get somebody, an independent farmer that will grow it for us. Then usually the price is a little better.”
But storing an entire crop of grain corn is a challenge, and the Kappers currently do not have that much capacity on farm.