Stacey McCallister's dairy cows had somewhat of a sweet tooth this summer. The Mountain Grove, Mo., dairyman was desperately trying to cut feed costs so he procured batches of misformulated ice cream and liquid used for Popsicle to feed his 160-cow herd.
The Wright County dairy farmer used the sweet treats as an energy replacement. He fed the products for four months. "It helped out financially," he says. "If I could have been on the product for a year we would be in even better shape."
Dairy farms across the state are trying to reduce costs to remain viable in the ever declining dairy industry. In just one year, the state lost 135 permitted Grade A dairy farms.
Searching for solutions
Last year, the weather wreaked havoc on McCallister's forage supply. He, like others, was out of pasture and hay. So, he had to feed something.
With the high cost of grain, McCallister looked for alternative feeds. He has used grain byproducts in the past, but says even those prices are trending higher. So, he widened his scope of feed to include things that offered energy to the herd.
"The strangest thing I fed was fresh produce out of St. Louis," he says. The loads varied but would often include shucks taken off the ear of corn or vegetables not able to be purchased by consumers because of bruising. While he obtained a few loads, there was a problem.
"The workers would not sort out the organic waste from the trash," he says. "So there was a lot of trash that could not be fed to the cattle." McCallister says there should be an opportunity there, but those in the city did not realize how important that feedstuff was to his operation. "It is hard to find a cheap energy alternative today."
Unfortunately, he says dairy farms are not feeding as well as they should because the money just is not there. Fortunately, his area has seen spring showers, which is working to replenish the pasture grasses. However, he says even those are not of the best quality.
"There are many pastures grown up with weeds, briars and broom sage," he says. "There is just not he money to fertilize. While we may be saving money now, it will hurt us in the long run in terms of milk production."
So McCallister will continue to search for quality alternative feed stuffs for his dairy farm, it may be the only way this Missouri producer can stay viable in the dairy industry for years to come.