Step Backwards Into Dairy Profitablity?

Nor' east Thinkin'

What your feed consultants may not tell you

Published on: September 15, 2009

Not every change termed as progressive is beneficial. While that certainly applies to politics, it also fits farming – particularly dairy farming.


Dairy farmers are getting all kinds of advice today how to make their cows work harder to help them blacken the cash flow bottom line. But as I started looking at Northeast dairy farm financials several months ago, the lack of profitability didn’t appear to be just a milk price problem.


You’re right. I have no claim to being a dairy expert. But I do tap the minds of many who you’d agree are experts.


While feed costs are a big ticket item, it alarms me that close to 45% or more of feed costs are purchased ingredients. That’s simply out of control, and a losing proposition in this dairy economy!


Most dairy farmers – particularly smaller scale ones – have the greatest opportunity to change that. Consider, for a moment, the savings impact of cutting purchased ingredients back to 15 to 25% of feed costs – assuming you can hold milk production within a few pounds of current levels.


How so?


We’ll be digging into a number of ideas in November’s American Agriculturist. But here are a few ideas that you can start thinking about before it’s too late to make cropping changes this fall.


As Vicky Carson, our dairy column contributor, has been preaching for years, get those cows back on a high-quality, high-forage diet. That’s the easiest way to reduce feed costs per hundredweight of milk produced. Your cows will be healthier for it and your purchased protein needs might be eliminated.


It’s no secret that well-managed grazing operations are surviving this milk price depression better than anybody. Why? See previous paragraph.


Consider fall-seeded cover crops. While it’s a tad late now, especially in our northern readership states, wrap your mind around using early-seeded cover crops as a high-quality hay or silage feed source. October’s cover story – soon to arrive in your mailbox – about Steve Groff’s permanent cover crop system has huge merit, as done intercropping.


Here’s one other tip from November’s issue: Got average quality hay in the barn? Consider selling it, and buying high-quality dairy hay from the western states.


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