In October 2016, David Fisher traveled from his upstate New York dairy to World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, where he was one of 75,000 visitors at the annual international cattle and trade show.
Returning home a few days later, Fisher carried something few expo attendees ever receive: the Grand Champion Award for BMR Corn Silage and a check for $1,500.
Fisher, his family and their Mapleview Dairy team earned top honors in the 2016 World Forage Analysis Superbowl for their BMR corn silage entry. Held in conjunction with World Dairy Expo, the annual contest offers forage producers the opportunity to enter their highest-quality forages in eight categories.
“Having the winning BMR corn sample was exciting for everybody on the farm,” Fisher says. “It gave us a morale boost and brought recognition of the hard work everybody puts in during planting, through the summer season and harvest. It was good for everybody on the team.”
As a nutritionist who has worked with Mapleview Dairy and the Fisher family for several years, I was pleased and proud of their Forage Superbowl win but not surprised. David and his family run their operation with a strong commitment to quality from top to bottom. The Mapleview Dairy team is goal-oriented and follows strict protocols in everything from animal care to crop production to farm safety and security.
Big herd, quality forage
Mapleview Dairy has grown BMR corn for silage for more than a decade. Today, the forage is a major part of the rations for its 3,000-cow herd. Holsteins make up the largest breed, but the dairy also milks 300 Jerseys at a separate site. Housed in freestall barns and milked in two parallel parlors, the overall herd produces about 90 pounds of milk per cow per day.
Fisher and his family also farm 4,500 acres of corn, alfalfa, grasses and beans. They grow 90-day BMR hybrids for corn silage.
“We rely on our Mycogen seed salesman, Claude Fortin, to help us pick the seed and select for plant population and soil type,” says Fisher.
Those varieties work well on the Madrid area farm, situated about 10 miles below the Canadian border. Mapleview plants BMR corn in early May and harvests it in mid-September when it reaches optimum moisture levels for increased quality. The crop yields about 20 tons per acre.
Tonnage, however, isn’t the dairy’s driving goal. The BMR corn produces a silage that’s “more digestible and healthier for the cows,” Fisher points out.
A multitasking family
Fisher’s grandfather started Mapleview Dairy in 1946, but the family has farmed in the Madrid area since the 1820s. Today, Fisher operates the farm and dairy with his sister LouAnne King and brother-in-law John Kingston. Dan Davis, who is the brother of Fisher’s wife, Patti, is the operation’s mechanic. Mapleview relies on its 45 employees, a herd nutritionist and an outside consultant who handles the dairy’s nutrient management plan.
After graduating from Cornell University, Fisher’s two sons, Jordan and Jacob, returned to the family business. Jordon runs the heifer operation, which has a capacity of 3,500 young stock. He and LouAnne also manage Mapleview’s finances and human resources. Jacob is the feed manager and helps with the crops to ensure best-quality forages. He also works with the herd team to make sure the dairy’s cows are well-fed, healthy and productive.
“My experience with BMR corn has been good,” Jacob says. “We look for that added dry matter intake because that means there’s going to be milk in the tank. We track feed efficiency very closely because it’s what’s driving our profitability. Our BMR corn silage is helping us get there through added intake and healthier cows. Fiber digestibility is key.”
Coping with challenges
“Dairying is not as easy as it used to be,” Fisher says. “Margins are thin, and there’s a lot of milk out there. We have to be as frugal as we can and get the most milk possible.” As an example of that thrift, Mapleview’s $1,500 prize from the World Forage Analysis Superbowl went into the farm’s general fund.
“We’re trying to figure out where we want to be for the next generation,” Fisher adds. “To help get my sons in the right spot, we’re trying to see where we want to go and how we’re going to get there. Labor is a major concern.”
Whether that means adopting robotic milking, a methane digester or another on-farm technology, Fisher can’t say. But it’s clear that this multitasking family knows how to grow quality forages and take care of its herd.
“Winning at the World Forage Superbowl meant that we’re doing something right,” Jacob says. “It meant we’d finally put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
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