Skills in detective work are sometimes more valuable than knowing the ins and outs of nutrition. Today’s computer models make ration formulation almost too easy. When troubleshooting “nutrition” problems many people start with the paper ration. However, in reality the problem many times is in the implementation. This is where science and art come into play.
Most dairy producers will welcome the end of 2016. The variability in weather, forage quality and quantity, and the low milk prices will not be missed. However, what will 2017 offer and what can be done to manage the ups and downs? The one constant is precision feeding as the lifeline for keeping margins in check throughout the year.
Technology takes monitoring cows at calving time to a new level.
Five steps to monitoring the financial health of a dairy business.
Overmilking can damage teat ends and compromise udder health. A simple test can help you determine if you are over or under milking.
Description of in-feed medications and how they fit into the new Veterinary Feed Directive rules taking effect January 1, 2017.
An example of how one farmer is using data from an activity monitoring system to identify the optimum breeding time for his farm.
Feeding cows is very similar to conducting a financial assessment in respect to “What is the return on investment?” For the cow it comes down to what is the return on milk volume and pounds of fat and protein for the price of feed fed. The approach taken by producers during difficult times is to make decisions based on the unit price of a particular feed. Usually this is coupled with not giving thought on what the feed contributes to the ration, how the animal responds, and the long term implications of replacing an “expensive” feed ingredient with a cheaper substitute. This strategy has led many nutritionists to avoid the least cost ration scenario and focus on the best cost ration because optimum performance is rarely achieved on the least cost approach.
Animal and agronomic research has provided many tools and practices over the past decades that have assisted producers in doing their job better and easier. A direct transfer of the results to real world does not always equate to the same positive results. It is easy to get caught up on the potential benefits conveyed from research in either increased milk production, improved health, higher crop yields, better fiber digestibility and the list could go on. There are several key factors that come into play when determining how much a farm may benefit from a new product or management practice.
Results of monitoring THI, rumination, and milk production on a Southeastern Pennsylvania farm.
Enacted to further improve the safety of our food supply, these laws will impact most farms.
Dairy profitability seems to be a constantly moving target. Producers are dealing with the highs and lows of milk prices and feed costs. Some fixed and variable costs stay about the same regardless of what is happening in the markets. Producers are working with biological units (crops and cows), which are subject to external forces making crop yields and milk production unpredictable. Can dairy producers control what appears to be uncontrollable?
The hit and miss rain this past summer in Pennsylvania has left dairy producers with reduced forage inventories. Corn for silage within fields and farm is extremely variable in regards to plant height and corn grain fill. This will provide many challenges to the nutritionist in formulating rations that will remain consistent over time.
Feed costs tend to be the largest expense on a dairy operation and managing those costs contributes to a dairy’s ability to be profitable.
Precision feeding is a strategy for productive heifers and a healthy bottom line. The Penn State Dairy Heifer Diet Formulator (PSU-HDF) program encourages an approach to heifer feeding that is driven by the desire to precisely meet metabolizable energy and nitrogen needs of growing dairy heifers while still allowing farmers to meet their desired goals for growth, age at first breeding, age at first calving, and first lactation production.
The last several months Pennsylvania dairy producers have received less than $16/cwt for their milk. The average breakeven milk price on many farms hovers around $18 to $19/cwt, so right now producers are hurting financially. If that was not bad enough, many dairies are suffering through drought conditions. The following website http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home.aspx shows conditions in the U.S. and for individual states. These are both situations producers have endured before however it never gets any easier. If not already, now is the time to be forward thinking. Forage quality and quantity could be issues and purchasing additional forage is a real possibility. What contingency plans are in place if the worst case scenarios play out: continued low milk price and low forage inventories?
12-2-16 recording for crops to cow.
The dairy industry as with any commodity deals with the peaks and valleys of the markets. Other commodities are in a similar situation as the dairy operation and to stay in business they have to know their cost of production. They are constantly monitoring their business’s performance so changes can be made quickly to compensate for a downturn. It can be depressing when the current income over feed cost is less than the breakeven number. Instead of focusing on how to cut costs, many times to the determent on animal performance, focus on making adjustments that improve upon what is already being done. Many times it is honing in on a small detail that can make a significant impact on milk income.
The Penn State Extension Dairy Team is hosting an agricultural tour of Costa Rica in January 2017. Trip details updated! Registration deadline July 10th.
When data is available, managers can look at mortality numbers, feed shrink (tons harvested or purchased compared to as fed), and inventories of supplies to determine what changes if any are needed to reduce these sometimes steady drains on profitability.