Lower Feed Costs with High Forage TMRs

October 9, 2011 05:26 PM

Blue Mound Dairy, Luverne, Minn., reports a feed cost of $6.59/cwt. of milk produced, a number that is probably causing envy across the country.

The 1,000-cow dairy was one of eight Virtual Farm Tours hosted at World Dairy Expo in 2011. Blue Mound is owned and operated by Rick and Carrie Van Santen and their four sons: Brad, Derek, Austin and Jacob.

Feed costs are based on actual growing costs, pegging corn silage in at $35 per ton. Land costs are also part of the equation. Because of competition from corn and soybean growers in his area, says Van Santen, land rents run as high as $450 per acre and recent land sales have reached $9,500 per acre.

Keys to these low feed costs are high milk production, high intakes and high forage content in the total mixed ration. Blue Mound has a rolling herd average of 28,500 lb., and dry matter intakes average 51 lb. (Actual intakes on an as-fed basis approach 110 lb./cow/day.)

The Van Santens have an extremely high forage content in the ration, making up 70% to 71% of the TMR. On a wet basis, that includes 69 lb. of corn silage, 13 lb. of haylage and 2.4 lb. of dry hay. The Van Santens are feeding just 8 lb. of corn, 5.5 lb. of cotton seed and 14.6 lb. of protein supplement.

Van Santen believes there are a number of keys to including this much forage in the diet. First, haylage and corn silage must be harvested at top quality and at the correct moisture for optimal fermentation. He shoots for 40% moisture in his haylage, and then packs the drive-over piles to a density of 15 lb. per cubic foot.

He includes inoculants on everything he ensiles, including 11 CFT from Pioneer Hi-Bred, which he says makes his conventional corn hybrids as digestible as brown midrib varieties. "While the inoculant costs $3 per ton, it allows me to pull 3 lb. of corn out of the TMR per cow per day," he says.

The Blue Mound Dairy tour was sponsored by Pioneer.

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