An on-farm trial using high moisture corn (HMC) as an alternative to pellets to entice cows for robotic milking sessions reduced feed costs, slightly improved milk production and increased income over feed costs.
“Based on the current case study, installation of a HMC feeding system on dairy farms using automatic milking systems is an opportunity to reduce feed costs and improve profitability on the farm,” says Mathew Haan, an Extension dairy educator with Pennsylvania State University.
Pellets are often used to entice cows into robotic milking units because they are highly palatable and free flowing. Their downside is that they can be expensive, often costing more than $300/ ton. In contrast, HMC can often be grown and ensiled on the farm for less than a fifth of that cost.
In the trial, HMC was gradually transitioned to replace pellets in a side-by-side Astrea 20.20 (AMS Galaxy) robotic milker. The partially-mixed ration fed to all cows at the bunk was also rebalanced to make up for protein and other nutrient losses when the pellets were no longer fed at the robots. The farm averaged 129 cows milking during the trial.
Prior to the trial, the farm was feeding 10 lb of pellets per cow per day through the robot and no HMC. After full transition to the HMC, cows were receiving no pellets but 9 lb of HMC through the robot.
Feed cost per cow per day dropped to $6.16 while milk production increased by 1.2 lb/cow/day. As a result, income over feed cost increased $1.17/cow/day. Annual return per cow increased about $400, and the annual return to the farm based on 129 cows jumped $52,545.