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Nutrition: Make Good Feed Choices

October 11, 2012
By: Jim Linn, Dairy Today Contributor

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**Extended comments highlighted in blue.

The drought and resulting high ration costs have dairy producers and nutritionists scrambling for rations and low-cost ways to feed cows.

Current national average feed cost is $13 per cwt. of milk. In Minnesota, where crops were relatively good compared to other areas, our feed cost is at $11 to $12 per cwt. of milk.

While we would all like to think there is some "cheap" feed out there waiting to be acquired and fed, that just isn’t the case. Whether you’re purchasing forages, grains or protein feeds, they are all expensive. With the value of milk close to the cost of feed, this makes for very difficult economic conditions.

However, the old business adage "you have to spend money to make money" applies to feeding cows and getting milk return. You have to spend some money on feed to produce milk; you just don’t have to have a premium-cost ration when a good one will do.

Understanding what your dollar should be spent on and where it will get the best return is important for making good feed purchase decisions and maximizing income over ration cost in the next several months.

To achieve cost-effective milk production rations, spend feed dollars for basic, essential feeds and nutrients first.

Here’s a guideline on where your feed dollars should go in order to support basic milk production:

• Forages should comprise about 50% of the ration dry matter and should be the single biggest cost item in the diet, at 40% to 45% of the total ration cost. Home-raised forages will price in slightly lower than market-based forages.

• The next most essential feed and nutrient is starch. Cows need some starch for good milk production. Corn is the best source of starch; corn cost should be about 20% of total ration cost.

• Byproduct feeds can substitute for grain, protein or forage in dairy rations. Most byproducts are a source of fiber and/or protein. Their availability and use in dairy rations is quite variable, and it is therefore difficult to closely assess what a ration cost parameter should be. However, an allocation of less than 20% substituting for other ration cost is a good estimate.

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FEATURED IN: Dairy Today - October 2012



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