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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

The Value Of Spring Forages

Dairy Pipeline: May 2008

John Welsh, Extension Agent, Rockingham County
(540) 564-3080;

Feed prices have been and will be a major concern for livestock producers throughout 2008. USDA reported the milk-feed price ratio for March 2008 to be 2.05, continuing a slide started in November of 2007 due to climbing feed prices and declining milk values. The ratio represents the pounds of 16% mixed dairy feed equal in value to one pound of milk and is an indicator of operating margins.

The high value of basic grain commodities has placed even more emphasis on the value of nutrients contained in forages. A survey of prices paid in the Shenandoah Valley area found values to be $244 per ton for corn and $396 for soybean meal. Utilizing the Feed Value Spreadsheet available through VT Dairy, these prices results in a value of $3.92 and $3.09 per percent for crude protein and TDN respectively. This spreadsheet also calculates the value of nutrients contained in common dairy feeds and assigns a value to the feed. For example, it calculates the value of rye silage harvested in the boot stage (assumes 33% dry matter, 62.6% TDN and 21% crude protein) to be $91 per ton. This is not to suggest that farmers should go pay $91/ton for rye silage, but that if they had to replace the nutrients contained in that silage they would have to spend $91 in alternative feedstuffs.

The spreadsheet also allows users to determine the feed value lost with declining forage quality. For example, grass hay at 16% protein is worth $24/ton more than if the protein level declined to 10%. Likewise alfalfa values decline by around $26/ton when protein levels drop from 25% to 20% crude protein. For those with internet access, the Feed Value spreadsheet can be found at the VT Dairy Website by using the following link:

In summary, efforts made to harvest spring forages in a timely fashion can yield substantial gains in profitability under the current feed prices.

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