The coming year promises to be exciting! Milk prices are near record highs, but unfortunately so are feed prices. With corn prices nearly $8/bushel, the successful dairy manager must squeeze every bit of energy, protein and carbohydrates from the forages on the farm to maintain margins on income over feed costs. Your feed management plan should focus on knowledge of inventories, feed nutrient content and controlling shrink.
Successful feed program management demands knowledge of inventories of forages and feed grains as well as their quality. Determine as closely as possible the amount of all silages and hay crops on hand and project utilization through the next harvest period. The silocap program, an Excel spreadsheet developed by VT faculty and available at www.vtdairy.dasc.vt.edu, can help estimate forage inventories in various silos. The program also has the ability to consider storage losses in determining how much is available to feed. Project utilization of each forage by considering how much is fed daily and project needs until the next harvest. Remember to consider the following in projections:
Recognize deficiencies in forage supply early and purchase feed before it becomes more expensive in the spring. Don’t totally rely on what was needed in the previous year.
Determine forage and feed nutrient content routinely. Ohio State studies suggest corn silage should be tested at least monthly. Routine testing of commodity feeds during our 5 year phosphorus field study demonstrated that every load of commodity feeds arriving on the farm should be tested. This enables timely adjustment of rations and in some cases, deficiency payments can be expected from suppliers if feeds don’t meet guaranteed nutrient specifications for DM%, CP% or other nutrients.
What’s your shrink? How much harvested forage or purchased grains and commodities are wasted? A trailer load of corn grain costs in excess of $8,000. Reducing shrink from 10 to 5% is worth over $400. Focus on the following in reducing shrink:
Average daily feed cost for a cow producing 70 lb. of milk is close to $8.00 which represents a daily cost approaching $1500 for the typical lactating herd in Virginia. Incentives are especially attractive for managers to optimize nutrient balance through timely ration formulation and knowledge of nutrient content and quality of all feeds. Further improvements can be expected through reductions in losses during storage and feeding
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, re-print, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Alan L. Grant, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Jewel E. Hairston, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State, Petersburg.
October 24, 2011