Efficiency is the name of the game when margins are tight on a dairy farm. But there are certain benchmarks managers can follow to get the most milk out of their herds. Dr. Mike Hutjens, Dairy Extension Specialist at the University of Illinois, told attendees at the Professional Dairy Producers Conference in Madison that there are key steps to follow when feeding dairy cows for optimum production.
“First and foremost, dry matter intake is king,” Dr. Hutjens explained. “The last pound of dry matter consumed can support two additional pounds of milk per cow without added nutrients for maintenance. The cost of one pound of dry matter is about nine cents. And if the value of two more pounds is about 30-cents, that’s a profit margin of 21-cents per cow per day.”
Extra dry matter consumption can be accomplished by mixing the ration closer to the time of feeding and keeping consistent measurements when putting the ration together.
He further noted that forage quality depends on what the weather was doing at the time of harvest. During 2017, Wisconsin saw a lot of saturated conditions in the fields, with a cool fall and an early killing frost.
Feed additives are also important. He says cows can really thrive when rumen buffers, silage inoculants and organic trace minerals are added to the ration. And he said farmers should pay attention to the ratio of corn silage to alfalfa.
“Having 70-percent corn silage and 30-percent alfalfa seems to be the most economical in terms of cost.”
In addition, there are several “do nots” to keep in mind. For example, removing minerals from the ration, breeding to give cows longer calving intervals and avoiding body condition scores are sacrifices that may be costly in the long-run.
“Sometimes saving a dime can cost you a dollar when trying to save money on input costs,” Dr. Hutjens said. “Feeding organic trace minerals, pulling back on hoof trimming and utilizing bull breeding can cost you much-needed profits at the end of the day.”
Dr, Hutjens says the bottom line is to focus on profitability, keep tabs on the controllables and use other management tools available at your disposal.
The 2018 PDPW Business Conference is sponsored by Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. Dairy producers from around the world gathered to engage in professional development and network with each other and other industry professionals. More highlights from the conference are available at www.pdpw.org. Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin is a dairy-producer founded organization that provides educational programs and services to fellow dairy producers.