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Are You Managing Your Feeding Program?
Dairy Pipeline: November 2008
Extension Dairy Scientist, Dairy Nutrition
(540) 231-4770, firstname.lastname@example.org
This year has been a wild ride for the dairy
business — any business for that matter!
During the past year we have experienced
milk prices exceeding $25/cwt, corn over
$8/bushel, soybeans above $13, diesel fuel
over $4/gallon and the list goes on. There’s
a saying: “When you are up to your neck in
alligators it’s difficult to remember that your
original intention was to drain the swamp!”
This certainly applies to what we have faced
recently. Now, in mid-October, corn has
dropped below $4/bushel and gas is below
$3.00 gallon. All too often we accept the
hand we are dealt when there’s substantial
opportunity to stack the cards in our favor
with a little extra effort. When feed costs are
>$6/cow/day there are great opportunities
to save money and increase income. Here
are some fundamental principles to use in
managing your feeding program:
- Strive for good forage quality. We have
heard this all too often and many times
weather intervenes to spoil the best of intentions.
However, it’s important to test the
forage to know what you are working with.
Consider an NDF digestibility to determine
milk production potential. Heavily used forages
such as corn silage should be tested at
least monthly. Consider using NIR tests to
save some money.
- Make wise buying decisions on supplemental feeds. Keep abreast of markets by talking
to feed supplies and reading market reports.
Some examples of reliable sources of
brief, concise information include: The Blimling
Report, Weekly Market Update from the American Jersey Cattle Association and DTN
Morning Snapshot. In addition, develop
good relationships with your feed suppliers
and listen carefully to their advice.
- Manage your feeder. If a hired employee
does the feeding how do you know that they
are mixing the desired ration? Nine dairies
in Virginia have participated in an intensive
feed management study to reduce phosphorus
overfeeding by installing and using feed
management software to monitor how
closely the feeder comes to loading ingredients,
mixing and delivering TMR’s. If this
technology is not an option consider monitoring
herd performance more closely by
doing the following:
- Record daily milk shipped per cow by
recording pickup weights and cows going
into the tank each day. Graph this to
monitor milk flow.
- Access fat% and protein % from your
coop or handler at least several times
per week to determine how stable component
tests are or in which direction
they are headed. Make adjustments.
- Take care of fresh cows. Their environment
must be optimal and their diets the best
and most consistent on the farm. Loss of
peak milk dooms the cow to reduced lactation
yield. Facility updates for close up and
fresh cows will pay big dividends.
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