September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Producers given tips for coping with current dairy, feed situation

By by Kelli Boylen- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

POSTVILLE, Iowa - Although it would have been best to take feed inventories and start making adjustments last fall, there are still many tools dairy producers can utilize to help them survive tough times.
Iowa State University Extension Dairy Specialist, Lee Kilmer, compiled a list of Tools for Coping in 2013, which was presented both at the Iowa Dairy Days and at the Managing through Stress: A Livestock Information Event held Feb. 4 at 14 Iowa locations via the internet.
Resources are available through ISU Extension to help producers calculate the amount of feed they will need. If feed supplies look like they will be short, there are several options which can be considered.
There has been research in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which has looked at limiting heifer feed. This consists of feeding a higher energy diet, but limiting the total amount of feed offered and thus controlling the average daily gain. Neither of the studies were large scale, but they both showed the performance before and after calving is not reduced and the final body weight was about the same. In fact, they had increased feed efficiency, less manure, slightly bigger calves and less difficultly calving, and they gave slightly more milk than traditionally fed heifers (76.3 to 69.7 pound of milk).
Kilmer said there are several keys to making this work, including: balancing the ration to meet nutritional requirements, providing adequate bunk space, closely grouping the heifers by size so they all gain weight consistently, avoiding straw for bedding, and stopping the limited feeding and adapting the heifers to a pre-fresh ration 30 to 45 days before calving.
The transition from free-choice forage feeding to a limited feeding program should be made gradually. The studies reported the heifers were very vocal about their change of diet the first couple of weeks, but they soon adapted.
The market for culled dairy cows has been strong, and high predicted beef prices indicate this trend will continue. Kilmer said this may be a good time to cull low producing and/or problem cows. It costs up to $3,000 to raise a replacement heifer from birth to freshening; it may make sense to sell any surplus heifers you have instead of feeding them.
Traditional rations can be changed to include less forage or concentrate, depending upon the situation. There are many different by-products that can be incorporated to stretch your supply.
Iowa State Extension recommends online resources to see if particular feedstuffs are a good value, not just the price, but also the nutrients provided. The University of Wisconsin's FeedVal-2012 program is available at allows producers to either use default prices provided, or entering the prices currently available to them, and the program will calculate if the cows will get the nutrition they should for the money spent. The University of Missouri maintains a free up-to-date listing of by-product feed prices and availability at
Kilmer reminded dairy producers that just because something works out well on paper, it may not be best for the cows; he urges everyone to work with their nutritionist.
In order for a cow to maintain normal ruminal pH and milk fat, the diet must promote adequate cud chewing. Kilmer said that not only is the fiber content important, the particle size also needs to be considered. Some by-products have too small of particle size, such as beet pulp and soy hulls, and do not contribute to the total time the cow spends chewing her cud.
Kilmer suggested adding a few pounds of straw or low-quality, mature hay to the diet of lactating cows to increase cud chewing to enhance rumen fermentation.
Kilmer advised against reducing trace minerals and vitamins, pointing out although you may not see the impact on production, it will affect the herd's health. "It could be a long-term disaster to reduced growth rates on heifers, reduced immunity on all animals and reduced fertility on both cow and heifers," said Kilmer, adding that reduced immunity can also lead to higher somatic cell counts.
Feed additives should also be kept in the ration because they have a return of three to 14 times over their costs. Additives to keep include ionophores, silage inoculants, organic trace minerals, yeast-based products, rumen buffers and biotin.
At the Tools for Coping seminar, Lee Schulz, ISU Extension and Outreach livestock specialist and assistant professor in the Iowa State Department of Economics, predicted the profit margin for dairy producers will remain tight in 2013. He added there could be an opportunity for dairy farmers to get ahead by contracting feed and milk prices early to mid 2013.
Elwynn Taylor, agricultural meteorologist at Iowa State University, forecasted that the Corn Belt, as a whole, is most likely to have better yields than 2012, but still below trend. "I do not anticipate this year will correct the lack of soil moisture, at least before June," he said. "But things should not be as bad as they were in 2012."[[In-content Ad]]


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