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Fine-tuning feed costs

Jim Paulson, Dairy Extension Educator, Univeristy of Minnesota Extension, Willmar
Jim Linn, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, and Consultant, Waconia Farm Supply and Milk Specialties Global

December 22, 2012

Jim Salfer had a good article last month on management impacts on feed costs. This month, we want you to examine your lactating cow diet more closely to compare your costs to common diets. There are several ways to evaluate feed cost. Common measures of costs are $/cow/day, $/cwt milk and purchased feed cost/day or cwt milk. All should be evaluated as no one measure fully defines the cost of feeding lactating cows and is the best single criteria to make feed cost decisions. Income over feed cost (IOFC) is the best measure to evaluate feed costs. Daily feed cost measures that maximize IOFC are the best costs.

Direct Feed Expenses

To achieve the most cost effective milk production, feed dollar expenditures should provide for the basic required nutrients to meet health, reproduction and milk production requirements. A guideline on feed expenditures to meet these basic requirements is below.

Ration costs are not the same on all dairy farms. Current feed cost per cwt of milk for Minnesota dairy producers ranges between $11 and $13. Every dairy farm is different and many variables affect the final cost of the ration fed including: type of forages fed and whether home raised or purchased; the kind of grain and protein feeds being fed; the type and amount of byproduct feeds included in the ration; milk production level of herd; body weight of cows plus the items listed in the feeding management section below. The four rations in the following table illustrate the variation in feed costs in diets ranging from high haylage to high corn silage. The fourth ration is a high silage ration with fat substituting as an energy source. All rations were formulated to support 85 lb of milk or more per day and for the same nutrient specifications of 17% CP (maximum), 28% NDF (minimum), 28% starch (maximum) and .79 Mcal/lb of NEL at 52 lb/day of DM. Feed amounts shown are as fed lb/cow.
  High haylage 50:50 DM basis
haylage:corn silage
High corn silage High corn silage with fat
Corn silage, lb 25 44 75 80
Haylage, lb 51 35 17 18
Corn, lb 15.5 12.7 6.5 5
Protein supp, lb 6.2 8.6 11.5 10.2
Min/Vit, lb 1.4 1.6 1.8 1.9
Fat, lb       0.5
$/day ration cost 8.20 8.10 7.64 7.95
Ration milk potential, lb/day
Metabolizable Energy 96 95 92 95
Metabolizable Protein 85 94 93 93

This is a good discussion to have with your nutritionist. Break your diet costs down into categories and compare with these. Every diet will be different and your nutritionist can explain why. Your nutritionist can only be as good as your forages allow.


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