Fine-tuning feed costs
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.
- Forages should comprise about 50 to 60% of the ration DM and will be the largest single cost item at 40 to 45% of the total cost because of the quantity needed to meet fiber and other nutrient requirements of energy and/or protein.
- Starch is the next basic feed need. Cows need some starch for good milk production. Corn is the best source of starch and should be about 20% of the total feed cost. Corn feeding amount and expenditure will be quite variable as byproducts and corn silage can substitute for some corn. High corn silage rations (>60% of forage DM) will be lower in corn than high haylage diets.
- Byproduct feeds like distillers grains, cottonseed and corn gluten feed can substitute for grain, protein or forage in diets. Most byproducts are a source of fiber and/or protein. Their availability and use is quite variable and difficult to closely assess what a specific cost allocation should be. However, a 10 to 20% ration cost for byproduct feeds in substitution for other feeds in the ration is a good target cost.
- Protein is needed for good digestion and utilization of forage and grain. Rumen degradable protein like soybean meal is our first choice but there are others. Degradable protein sources should be 5 to 10% of the feed cost. For good milk production, some rumen undegradable protein (RUP) should be included in the diet also. These are generally higher cost feeds accounting for 10 to 20% of the total cost.
- Minerals and vitamins should be 4 to 8% of the ration cost. This would include limestone, salt and a vitamin/trace mineral base.
- Fat is a high energy source that can substitute for other energy feeds and supplement low energy feedstuffs in the ration. Fat supplement costs should be 4 to 7% of the total ration cost.
- Feed additives are a very broad category of feed supplements that often enhance feed utilization for milk production and/or animal health. Typical ingredients would include a yeast product, a chelated trace mineral source and a buffer. Inclusion amount for most additives is low and individual cost effectiveness is usually better than a 2 to 1 return. The key to effective feed additive usage is matching the feed additive with herd needs and not using feed additives as a substitute for high quality feeds and a good nutrient balanced diet. Costs are in the range of 5% of the total cost.
|High haylage||50:50 DM basis
|High corn silage||High corn silage with fat|
|Corn silage, lb||25||44||75||80|
|Protein supp, lb||6.2||8.6||11.5||10.2|
|$/day ration cost||8.20||8.10||7.64||7.95|
|Ration milk potential, lb/day|
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.