Keeping Feed Costs Low Amid Tight Supplies

Keeping Feed Costs Low Amid Tight Supplies

After the wet weather in 2019, you may have concerns about your silage supply lasting another six months until the new crop. Take the first step by calculating your silage inventory.

“It’s always better to reduce silage by 10 or 15 lb. a day for six months than to pull it out completely in a few months because the inventory is gone,” says Dr. Bill Weiss, dairy nutrition professor at The Ohio State University. “So, calculate inventory then make your stocks last if you can. For example, if your current ration is 50% corn silage, it may work to lower that to 30% corn silage to keep it in the diet until September.”

For farmers running short of corn silage, consider some alternatives to replace the energy and fiber that corn silage provides.

“Because of the growing season last year, hay is very expensive,” says Weiss. “There’s not a lot of cheap fiber available. One option is cottonseed, which is a good buy right now. It provides fiber for the cow that is very similar to corn silage. If you’re not feeding cottonseed or if you’re feeding low levels, think of bumping that up to around 10 lb., but that’s about the limit. On a dry-matter basis, that amount can replace about 10 lb. of corn silage and maintain fiber and rumen health.”

Another option to consider is short-season forage which can be planted in early spring and harvested mid-summer. Some small grains like wheat or oats might mature enough for harvest by mid to late June and can provide good-quality forage. As new forages are harvested, it’s possible to bring them into the diet and keep corn silage at a level that stretches your supply through the season. However, if you are really short inventory and will run out completely, your options are high-quality alfalfa, grass or small grain silage.

“If forage fiber is limited you will need more total fiber and less starch, making grain byproducts — like soy hulls, corn gluten feed or limited amounts of distillers grains — a good option. On an income over feed costs basis, those diets can be very competitive with a typical corn silage, alfalfa, corn-grain diet,” he notes. “But they generally aren’t as efficient, so you won’t get as much milk per pound of feed.”

High-byproduct diets are typically about 5% less efficient. It’s possible to get the same pounds of milk, but it requires about 5% more feed to get it. However, per pound of diet, it can be a little cheaper. So, work with your nutritionist when considering byproduct additions because it requires a very different diet. However, the alternative of purchasing alfalfa or hay — unless the price comes down — could be expensive.

Tip to Stretch Inventory
If you’re trying to stretch corn silage inventory, remember that you still need to feed enough to keep it fresh.

“If you remove small amounts, the result can be a lot of mold and spoilage, and then you’ve defeated the purpose of conserving supplies,” Weiss says. “If you have to stretch corn silage, calculate how much you need to remove — right now you could get by with six inches of removal but in the summer, eight would be a minimum if it’s a well-packed bunker. So feed enough, but don’t feed any more than you have to so you can stretch supplies.”

Headline photo courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Bill Weiss, The Ohio State UniversityTo read more articles like this one:


Dairy Herd Management

Stretch Limited Forage Supplies

Cover Crops to Support Forage Diets

Assess New Silage and Monitor Cows Closely



Build Forage Inventory by Double Cropping

Inventory Stored Feeds

Planning Can Minimize Winter Feed Costs


Sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition

Zach Zingula
Wed, 04/01/2020 – 09:00





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Source: Dairy Herd