Balancing your ration for
income over feed costs can
help you put the right feed in
front of the right cows.
everything looked like it should feed the same as the previous ra-
tion. At the time, the herd was producing 85 lbs. of milk/cow with a
3.6% butterfat. At $3/lb. of butterfat; it was valued at $9.18/cow/day.
Shortly after the switch to the new alfalfa, butterfat levels dropped
from 3.6% to 3.4%. The butterfat value dipped to $8.67/cow/day, a
51¢/day/cow drop that added up to $510/day for the 1,000-cow herd.
That lost income far outweighed the savings from the reduced hay
price. Leahy explained that although nothing really changed in the diet
outside of the source of alfalfa – which on paper looked ﬁ ne – but-
terfat levels still dropped. Had the herd manager known the alfalfa’s
ﬁ ber digestibility, he could have adjusted the ration accordingly, and
avoided any drop in butterfat.
“If you aren’t doing an analysis on digestibility of forage, you
need to take the next step with your forages,” stated Leahy. “But
remember, your analysis is worthless unless you’re using it in some
way. “We’re entering an era when you have to know every possible
thing about your feed ingredients’ starch and ﬁ ber to understand just
how that ingredient will feed,” Leahy said.
These critical areas will be key to maximizing feed and ration ef-
FYI I For more information on starch and ﬁber digestibility testing, con-
tact Kevin Leahy, nutritionist and technical services manager with
Calibrate® Technologies at (636) 742-6275 or e-mail: KTLeahy@calibra-
tetechnologies.com. DID 2011 LEAVE YOU
FORAGING FOR FEED?
By Dave Natzke
Acreage competition and weather put a dent in 2011 forage
production – and the bottom lines of dairy farmers producing or buying
forages. Analyzed by DairyBusiness Communications, USDA reports
point to the lowest forage acreage and production in the past ﬁ ve years
and, in some cases, decades.
All dry hay acreage in 2011 was down 4.2 million acres from 2010
and nearly 5.4 acres less than from 2007. Alfalfa/alfalfa mixture dry hay
production was down more than 2.6 million tons from 2010 and 4.5 mil-
lion tons from 2007. Among the forage “milestones” in 2011:
• U.S. alfalfa and alfalfa mixture dry hay production was the low-
est since 1959. Harvested area was the smallest since 1949.
Please turn to page 27
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