Feeding the dairy herd in an environment of high feed costs

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Jaylor nutritionist, Janet Kleinschmidt, discusses feeding your dairy herd in an environment of high feed costs and low/poor quality forage inventories.

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Feeding the dairy herd in an environment of high feed costs

  1. 1. Feeding the Dairy Herd in an Environment of High Feed Costs andLow/ Poor Quality Forage Inventories.
  2. 2. Feeding the Dairy Herd in an Environment of High Feed Costs and Low/ Poor Quality Forage Inventories.This past year, North America experienced the worst drought in more than half a century. In the US the Mississippi River approached record lows, as far as 20 feet below normal (and it is still dropping!). Throughout the Midwest, meager cornharvests began on the some of the earliest dates ever recorded.Corn and soybean farms produced far smaller yields,which is affecting livestock production and impacting food prices worldwide.
  3. 3. Feeding the Dairy Herd in an Environment of High Feed Costs and Low/ Poor Quality Forage Inventories.
  4. 4. Feeding the Dairy Herd in an Environment of High Feed Costs and Low/ Poor Quality Forage Inventories.
  5. 5. Feeding the Dairy Herd in an Environment of High Feed Costs and Low/ Poor Quality Forage Inventories.Adverse weather conditions like drought present thedairy producer with some major challenges: The largest problem is having enough forage available to feed all animal groups. The second significant problem is forage quality.
  6. 6. Feeding the Dairy Herd in an Environment of High Feed Costs and Low/ Poor Quality Forage Inventories.The third issue (and in many peoples minds the mostimportant issue) is the economics of the situation: Forage quantities are limited, to buy more forages is expensive and often prohibitive (that’s if you can find some!). Grains, proteins and by-products are at all time high $/Tonne The palatability of the items being evaluated and their suitability for use in the feeding system should also be considered.
  7. 7. Feeding the Dairy Herd in an Environment of High Feed Costs and Low/ Poor Quality Forage Inventories. In addition to the aforementioned items, there areother risk factors that occur during a drought that can have a substantial impact on animal performance. Nitrates, mycotoxins, molds, prussic acid, and otherpoisons can jeopardize both production and health of animals.
  8. 8. What to do???1. Plant annualsAdditional forages may be grown to help supplementforage supplies. Oats, peas, triticale, wheat, rye grass,provide an option for additional forage.These forages could either be used in diets of lactatingcows or as forage sources for heifers or dry cows toincrease the supply of higher quality forages for thelactating herd.Of course, some moisture will be needed forgermination and growth of these crops.
  9. 9. What to do???2. Source forages from outside sources (possibly too late)Drought conditions result in reduced pasture, hay andsilage yields which can greatly reduce the typicalsupply of forage for a dairy farm.Being proactive on sourcing additional forage can bebeneficial as availability of forages may be reducedand prices will continue to rise as demand increases.I recommended my clients buy any needed forages atthe end of summer before prices got way out of hand(they will be CRAZY before 1st cut).
  10. 10. What to do???3. Purchase drought-stressed corn to harvest for silage (again probably too late)Even though drought-stressed corn may not result infeed values equal to corn silage grown during anormal year, it can still be a good source of feed.Increased opportunities for purchasing drought-stressed corn for silage are likely in areas where cornis commonly grown for grain. However, the moistureof these crops must be monitored closely to be surethe crop will ensile and ferment correctly, and nitratetesting needs to be done.
  11. 11. What to do???4. Use non-forage fiber sources in dairy diets ($$$)Consider reformulating diets to include non-foragefiber sources and reduce the inclusion of forages inthe diets of dairy cows.Although some eNDF is necessary in a dairy cow’sdiet, non-fiber feed sources, such as soybean hulls,corn gluten feed, cottonseed hulls and wheat can helpto meet the animal’s fiber requirements while stillmaintaining production and health.Less expensive effective fiber such as straw or lowquality hay may be added.
  12. 12. What to do???
  13. 13. What to do???5. Focus on proper forage harvest techniques (too late).Proper management and techniques at harvest willreduce losses and wasted forage. Even though propermanagement at harvest is always important, forageshortages further increase the importance of properlypreserving as much forage as possible.Paying attention to forage moisture levels, use ofinoculants and proper packing of silages help to insurethat the harvested forage will be properly preserved.
  14. 14. What to do???6. Store forages properly.Harvested forages only will be available to be fed if they arestored properly throughout the year. Feed losses can quicklyincrease feed cost. Use the following feed managementpractices to help minimize these losses:  Properly cover silage  Pack bunkers and piles well  Limit access by raccoons and other wildlife
  15. 15. What to do???
  16. 16. What to do??? Manage the face of bunkers, bags, and upright silos Prevent losses when storing concentrates and/or commodities. Check scales on the grinder mixer and/or TMR mixer to make sure they are working properly Routinely measure DM content of ensiled forages.
  17. 17. What to do???7. Reduce waste feedPay special attention to how much feed is beingwasted at various points on the farm.Reduce the amount of feed refusals from cows orutilize the refusals in the diets of other animals, whenappropriate, can help to minimize wastage.Keep the area around commodity storage clean andtidy can also help to prevent shrink and feed waste.
  18. 18. What to do???8. Test foragesRunning analysis on forages is necessary to know thequality of the forages and to properly balance rations.Without having the forage tested, it is impossible toknow the nutritional value of the feed.Other nutritional concerns, such as nitrates, also are agreater risk in drought years.Be sure to have the feeds tested at a certifiedlaboratory.
  19. 19. What to do???9. Inventory the feeds currently available on the farmDetermine the amounts and quality of the foragesources currently available on the farm to determine ifand how much additional forage may be needed.Remember that carry-over of corn silage is necessaryto allow time for next year’s crop to ferment(minimum of 3 months of additional corn silageshould be available).
  20. 20. What to do???10.Sort forages by their quality.Energy is the most difficult nutrient to provide tolactating dairy cows. Thus, they need to consume thehigher-energy forages available.Within the milking herd, the highest-quality foragesshould be fed to the early-lactation cows, high-producing group, and/or fresh cows.This may mean feeding more than one ration to yourherd.
  21. 21. What to do???11. Share the inventory of available forages with your nutritionist!12. Develop a plan for using available forages. Consider where they are best suited based on their quality.13. Revisit the potential for precision feeding Make sure your nutritionist is using an amino acid balancing program (CNCP, AMTS and others); balancing for amino acids can be a sound economic decision. Consider using a TMR tracking product.
  22. 22. What to do???14.Group Cattle to Improve Feeding Decisions1. Early to mid‐lactation cattle: These are the current money makers in the herd. They require large amounts of good quality feed to maintain production.2. Late lactation cattle: These cattle are on the back end of their productive lactation and most of their feed intake will be used to maintain body condition.3. Cattle close to calving: Should receive a ration similar to early lactation cattle to maintain body condition, to help prevent calving difficulties, and to promote milk production after calving.
  23. 23. What to do???4. Heifers: A maintenance ration is usually sufficient, but it is important to remember they are the future milk makers in the herd.If cattle are sorted and feed rations are mixed to fulfill the requirements of the respective groups, then feed costs can potentially be minimized based on a certain milk production level.
  24. 24. What to do???15.Keep rumen health a top priorityA healthy rumen environment, regardless of rationchanges, is critical for consistent performance.Focus on rumen pH and maintaining a neutralenvironment to allow rumen microbes to thrive.All of my herds are on 180-220 g/h/day sodium bicarband 50 g of MgOx for rumen health.
  25. 25. What to do???16. Cull cows and heifers.Reducing the numbers of animals that need to be fedwill help to stretch forage inventories and purchases.Ensure that the animals being retained and fed on thefarm are healthy and profitable for the operation.Cows with longer days in milk and short bred,problem breeders, and/or those with milk productionbelow the level needed to cover at least feed costsmay need to be culled or dried off early.
  26. 26. What to do???17.Constantly review balanced rations for the milking dairy herd.The dry weather pattern has greatly changed thequality of forages available to feed the milking herd.In addition, commodity prices are fluctuating widely.Working closely with your nutritionist is veryimportant to capitalize on any available feed savings.To deal with these rapidly fluctuating feed costs, dairyfarmers will need to balance and evaluate feedingprograms more frequently than in previous years.
  27. 27. What to do???18.Consider replacing some corn and soybean meal with lower-priced commodities in diets.Dairy cows and heifers need nutrients, notingredients, to support body maintenance, milkproduction, and growth.Replacing some of the corn, soybean meal, or otherhigh-priced commodities in the diet can reduce feedcosts.Commodities and by-products increase in pricealongside increased prices seen for corn and soybeanmeal.
  28. 28. What to do???18. Consider replacing some corn and soybean meal with lower-priced commodities in diets. FeedVal(FREE!)http://www.uwex.edu/ces/dairynutrition/spreadsheets.cfm Sesame http://www.sesamesoft.comcan be used to calculate the feeding or nutritionalvalue of these feeds and relative price.

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