Tips to control those feet costs
The saying, ‘You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude towards what happens to you,’ rings true when you think about paying that skyrocketing feed bill. Like it or not, feed prices have dramatically risen year-over-year, and leading experts advise producers to gain some control over their feed costs.
Professor of animal science emeritus from the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana, Dr. Mike Hutjens, says that feed costs are the major costs on the farm that producers can control.
“With feed representing half of total farm expenses, it’s vital to keep them under control,” he says. “The only reason to raise livestock is to increase return on crops raised on the farm.”
Independent agriculture business financial consultant, Gary Sipiorski, says knowing your costs is essential. He reports that feed costs range between 20% to 45% of the gross income, depending on how much feed you produce yourself.
“If you purchase all your feed, your feed cost will push to be around 50% of the milk check,” Sipiorski says. “Feed is the biggest cost to a dairy and each farm needs to individually evaluate depending on variables such as needs and forage quality.”
Five Tips to Control Feed Costs
Hutjens concurs with Sipiorski and offers these five tips to help producers control their feed costs.
1.-Rumen fermentation is key in reducing feed costs and growing amino acids and energy sources from rumen VFA (volatile fatty acids). Consider stable rumen pH, feed bunk management, feed stability to avoid secondary fermentation and feed additives that can stabilize the rumen environment.
2.-Forage quality and quantity are vital, especially for farms that grow their own forages. Having plenty of high-quality forage (defined as NDFD, RFQ, starch, uNDF, etc.) allows a higher forage to concentration ratio (perhaps 70% forage), less purchased protein supplement (rumen microbial sourced) and less corn grain (more VFA from rumen microbes).
3.-Forage crop selection and hybrid varieties to get the optimal balancing for nutrients for the rumen bacteria and for dairy cows. Lower lignin forages, higher yields, and cover crops next year, are examples.
4.-Processing feed ingredients to optimize nutrient availability. This includes corn silage processing, cooking corn silage for 4 to 6 months in storage, grinding corn to optimal mean particle size (400 to 600 micron), proper steam flaking density, and processing lower-quality forage shorter to minimize rumen fill factor and increase rates of passage.
5.-Optimize dry matter intake as digestible organic matter. This leads to maximum microbial growth, increases marginal milk yield (last pound or liter of milk can be most profitable), and measure feed efficiency which relates 3.5 lbs. of milk per pound of dry matter consumed. Compare your herd or groups to published guidelines, such as from Ohio State University.