Hutjens: Surviving Current Milk and Feed Prices

October 2, 2013 12:31 PM

Boost your milk components to gain an extra 40¢ to 50¢ per cwt. Look for the milk premiums (in the Midwest, they’re bringing in an added 82¢ per cwt.). Monitor forage inventory to make sure you have enough. Control and measure feed shrink, which can rob you of up to 35% of your forages.

Those were some of Mike Hutjens’ tips to survive current milk and feed prices, delivered in an Educational Seminar today at World Dairy Expo.

"Never give up milk," the University of Illinois, Urbana professor emeritus told the audience.

High-producing cows can convert 1 lb. of dry matter to 2 lb. of milk. With a cost of 12¢ per pound of dry matter and milk priced at 20¢ per lb. ($20 per cwt.), the profit is 38¢ per day per additional pound of dry matter consumed, Hutjens said.

Feed efficiency improvement of 0.1 per cow per day, from 1.4 to 1.5 lb. of 3.5% fat correct milk per pound of dry matter, will add 36¢ more income per cow per day.

Hutjens noted the forage challenges that exist in the U.S. Those include ongoing drought conditions in the Southwest and West, excessive spring rains in the Midwest that delayed corn silage planting, and the wet spring that not only delayed first-crop harvesting but reduced quality and resulted in the loss of one cutting. In addition, the Midwest lost nearly 2 million acres of alfalfa due to winter-kill.

"Current forage inventory summaries are critical as fall forages can meet forage needs," Hutjens said. "Your monthly feed inventory is needed to determine if you have adequate amounts to get to spring forages. As a guide, 5½ tons of forage dry matter (30 lb. per day) are needed for large breed cows, which include dry and lactation phases."

If your inventory is low or short, decide on your strategy now, not in March when forage prices may be high and supplies limited. By-product feeds could be one alternative if implemented early. Fuzzy cottonseed, wet corn gluten feed, wet distillers grain and wet beet pulp can be forage extenders.

Culling low-producing cows or cows with health challenges may be another choice. Reducing heifers on the farm or having them raised by heifer growers are possible, but consider costs and the heifer-growth history of the commercial heifer raiser.

Hutjens also urged producers to "monitor forage quality as large variation can be expected."

Corn prices may decline $2 per bu. and soybean meal may drop $100 per ton, depending on fall harvest yields, ethanol production and exports. By-product feeds can follow these two major sources of energy (corn) and protein (soybean meal), which may be more price competitive.

Hutjens encouraged producers to use FeedVal 2012 from the University of Wisconsin to determine breakeven prices.

The seminar was sponsored by Sioux Automation Center, Inc. 

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