Dairymen who use the right feed at the right time can maintain profitability even in down times, says Mike Hutjens.
“Every dairy farmer should be feeding corn silage,” Hutjens, a retired University of Illinois dairy specialist, told producers at a meeting here.
“We call it Christmas corn silage. You do not feed corn silage until Christmastime. It’s been fermenting in a bag for three or four months, which makes the starch more available.”
That is among several tips Hutjens provided to help dairy farmers who have struggled through low milk prices over the past couple of years.
Many are optimistic that prices will improve this year. Still, economical feeding solutions can help bridge the gap.
“Dry matter is 10 to 12 cents per pound. Every dairy farmer in Illinois needs to know that number,” Hutjens said. “What’s it cost for a pound of dry matter for your cow? The magic number is that 1 pound of dry matter should support 2 pounds of Jersey or 2 ½ pounds of Holsteins. I’ve already paid her maintenance costs.”
With milk prices at 17 cents per pound, a dime’s worth of dry matter yields 24 cents more profit, numbers indicate. There are some feed bargains out there that are on the good side of the break-even price.
One is distillers grains. Another is corn gluten feed.
“You’ve got to be feeding distillers grains,” Hutjens said. “It’s half price. Corn gluten feed is almost half price. Then there are soy hulls and fuzzy cotton. They’re still not break even, but at a good price this year.”
But making economical feed available doesn’t do much good if the cow doesn’t eat it. Hutjens points to a University of Wisconsin study giving three reasons for under consumption:
- A cow may be physically full and is unable to eat any more feed.
- Something tells the cow it is time to stop feeding. Researchers believe it could be related to rumen pH, fat level in the diet or other factors.
- Lameness may restrict feeding. Studies show 18 to 20 percent of cows are considered lame.
“What do lame cows not do? They don’t go to the feedlot eight to 10 times a day to get that extra mouthful of feed,” Hutjens said. “This lameness thing is huge.”
Additives that may also make economic sense include rumen-protected amino acids, which may increase milk protein and may yield more milk.
A study by The Ohio State University showed adding amino acids to the ration can add as much as 8 more pounds of milk daily.
“If your cows are producing 2.4 pounds of true protein, I would really check out your amino acid balance. There may be an opportunity for you,” Hutjens said. “And mycotoxin binders. This should be in every ration in Illinois.”
One survey indicated that many dairymen aren’t aware of exactly what they’re feeding their cows. For lactating animals, Hutjens recommends additives of rumen buffers, yeast products, silage inoculants, biotin and organic trace minerals.
For dry cows, the list changes, and includes organic trace minerals plus chromium, and anionic product.
Source: Iowa Farmer Today