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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

"AUDIT!" ... ... Your Nutrition Program

Dairy Pipeline: April 2008

M. Chase Scott, Extension Agent, Southwest Virginia
(276) 223-6040;

“Audit” isn’t a word we like to hear anytime, especially during tax season! However, the “audit” that I am referring to is that of standing back to evaluate your entire dairy herd nutrition program, from calves to the lactating cows. Record high feed prices, soaring fuel prices and continued ethanol attention is driving the daily feed cost through the roof on most dairy operations. Signs of softening milk prices dictate that we control our feed cost/cwt. Obviously the two approaches are to manage feed prices and/or to increase milk production.

It is always good to get an outside opinion, and this is a good time to call your Virginia Cooperative Extension Dairy Agent and ask them for assistance in “auditing” your dairy nutrition program. Below are just a few items to consider and discuss with your nutritional consultant.

Check the grind size of your ground corn. Cracked corn or coarser ground corn has lower processing cost but is not as efficiently used by dairy cattle. Grinding corn finer increases the surface area available for digestion. By decreasing the grind size you may be able to improve the energy utilization, increasing milk production with the same amount of corn. The table below summarizes performance of cows fed either cracked or ground corn.
* Farmland Industries, 2006

Consider digestibility when selecting corn silage varieties. Before selecting the variety to plant this spring, see how it compares to other varieties in a digestibility index such as Milk2000 (information available with extension). The table below shows the performance of cows fed either brown midrib corn silage (a mutant corn variety that is naturally more digestible but potentially lower yielding) or regular corn silage. I am not recommending everyone plant their entire farm to brown midrib corn—but do consider digestibility when planting this years corn.

* Journal of Dairy Science Vol. 82, No. 1, 1999.

Harvest winter cover crop as a forage. Small grain forage harvested in the pre-boot stage has about 20% crude protein (varies with how much N fertilizer applied), and 30% ADF. At the milk stage, CP averages 12%, and 35% ADF. In the milk stage, small grains typically have about 10% less energy than corn silage but 3 to 4 percentage units more CP than corn silage. When harvested in the boot stage, dry matter yields should range between 1.5 and 2.5 tons per acre. When harvested at the milk stage, yields range from 3 to 4 tons per acre.

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