Maximize Income Over Feed Costs with High-Quality Forage

Formulating diets that maximize income over feed costs often depends on the combination of forages and concentrates that best suit the herd’s nutritional needs, based on available forages. Ration formulation is greatly dependent on forage quality. The goal is to find a balance between allowing for adequate energy intake to stimulate maximum milk production while reducing feed costs. When there is an adequate supply of high-quality forages the need can often be reduced for supplemented concentrates.

Concentrates are used in dairy-cow diets because they provide more digestible energy per kilogram than forages. Concentrates are less gut-filling due to smaller particle size and reduced concentrations of neutral detergent fiber. Diets with greater proportions of concentrates provide a more consistent source of digestible carbohydrate compared to forages. A major disadvantage to those diets is they tend to be more expensive than those with greater proportions of home-raised alfalfa, grass or corn silage, and have less fiber than alfalfa or grass.

Similarly challenging is the wide variance in neutral-detergent-fiber content and neutral-detergent-fiber digestibility of forages such as alfalfa and grass. Those levels can vary widely depending on maturity, weather and time of year. Harvesting practices and storage methods – whether storing as hay or silage – also play a role.

Diets that contain greater proportions of concentrates contain smaller levels of neutral detergent fiber and therefore are less likely to limit feed intake caused by rumen fill. Dietary neutral detergent fiber and nonfiber carbohydrates are fermented by microorganisms that produce volatile fatty acids that reduce ruminal pH. Nonfiber carbohydrates are more rapidly and completely digested in the rumen compared to fiber, and therefore reduce rumen pH to a greater extent than neutral detergent fiber.

Another drawback of high-concentrate diets is that an excess of digestible carbohydrate can cause rumen acidosis or subacute rumen acidosis. The microbial digestion of nonfiber carbohydrates leads to the production of volatile fatty acids, an excess of which will cause a decrease in rumen pH. Rumen acidosis has been linked to reduced dry-matter intake and reduced milk-fat production.

Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown high-quality forages can replace costly supplemental concentrates without hindering milk production. Entitled “Evaluation of high-quality alfalfa silage on lactation performance and assessment of forage fiber digestibility in mid-lactation dairy cow diets,” that work found high-quality forages improve nutrient digestibility, reduce gut fill, and allow greater intake of protein and forage neutral detergent fiber in diets.

An experiment was conducted to determine how much high-quality alfalfa silage could replace concentrate feedstuffs in high-producing dairy-cow diets without reducing milk production. Forty-eight lactating Holstein cows – 24 multiparous and 24 primiparous at 141 plus or minus 22 days in milk – were randomly assigned to four treatments in a randomized complete block design. The experiment had a two-week covariate period followed by an eight-week treatment period. Diets consisted of 40 percent brown-midrib-corn silage, 10 percent conventional alfalfa silage, and either 0 percent, 6 percent, 12 percent or 18 percent high-quality alfalfa silage on a dry-matter basis. Diets were formulated to contain about 30 percent neutral detergent fiber, 26.4 percent starch and 17.4 percent crude protein on a dry-matter basis.

The diet with no high-quality alfalfa silage had a forage-to-concentrate ratio of 50:50. That ratio increased by 6 percent in diets as high-quality alfalfa silage replaced soy hulls as a percent of diet on a dry-matter basis. The high-quality alfalfa silage contained 33 percent amylase-neutral detergent fiber, 26.1 percent crude protein and 10.6 percent ash.

Increasing high-quality alfalfa silage in the diets linearly decreased dry-matter intake – P<0.05 – between the treatment diets. See Figure A. Dry-matter intake for cows on the diet of 18 percent alfalfa silage was about 1.5 kilograms per day less during treatment weeks one and two as cows were acclimating to the high-forage concentration of the diet. From treatment weeks three to eight, cows on the diet of 18 percent alfalfa silage increased their dry-matter intake.

It’s expected that the high portion of forage in the diet initially restricted gut-fill as cows were previously fed reduced-forage diets prior to the start of the study. As high-quality alfalfa silage replaced soy hulls, neutral detergent fiber intake decreased linearly – P<0.001 – across the diets. Increased particle size has been linked to a decrease in intake of neutral detergent fiber as well as dry-matter intake. The better quality of the high-quality alfalfa silage made for lesser gut-fill limitations compared to conventional alfalfa silages due to its reduced neutral-detergent-fiber composition.

Even with a decrease in dry-matter intake across treatments, milk production by diet was unaffected – P>0.10. See Table A. It’s expected the high quality and digestibility of the high-quality alfalfa silage allowed for greater nutrient absorption and utilization to be partitioned toward milk production. Because milk was unaffected, feed efficiency – calculated as energy-corrected milk divided by dry-matter intake – increased linearly from 1.63 to 1.83 when high-quality alfalfa silage increased incrementally in the diets. Milk-fat percentage and yield increased linearly as high-quality alfalfa silage replaced concentrate feedstuffs. See Figure B for the depiction of the increased milk- fat percentage.

Percentage and yield of both milk protein and lactose did not differ among the treatments. Milk-fat percentage and yield, lactose percentage and feed efficiency were greater for primiparous cows than multiparous cows. Digestibility of neutral detergent fiber didn’t change with the inclusion of high-quality alfalfa silage. Feed efficiency increased, suggesting underrepresented body-tissue mobilization by cows on higher-forage diets – or calculation errors associated with feed efficiency or diet digestibility. Substitution of protein and non-forage-fiber feedstuffs to as much as 18 percent of the diet, on a dry-matter basis, with high-quality alfalfa silage did not reduce milk production. It increased milk-fat yield, the milk-fat percentage and feed efficiency.

The research suggests an opportunity to improve income over feed costs by incorporating high-quality forages into high-producing dairy-cow diets while reducing the need for costly supplemental concentrates.

Cara Engel
Internal Nutrition Formulator
cara.engel@landmark.coop

Teamwork Overcomes

During the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on each of our lives in one way or another. But despite this, there have been some favorable outcomes for the Animal Nutrition division. I’d like to share a few of the most notable that have impacted our cooperative in a positive way.

Progress on Project List

People are surprised to hear me say that the pandemic has positively impacted the AN team. The added time (such as from reduced commuting) has allowed us to address a long list of things that needed to be cleaned up, improved, or simply removed. I’m happy to report that this list is much shorter now, and that our efforts have put us as a cooperative and you as an owner in a good position heading into 2021.

Commodity Opportunities

One of the first things on the list was the decision to join a procurement group to maximize our purchasing power and more accurately identify feed commodity opportunities. Early on, we had discussed our clients’ needs and proactively secured early commodity contracts. As a result, the monthly tons sold and cattle on feed with Landmark is growing month after month.

Another project on our list was to set up the optimum way to judge quality and consistency for all commodities entering our facilities. This information has helped tighten up ration formulations and, at times, let us know which suppliers to avoid.

Beef Xcellence

Many of you are likely all too familiar with virtual meetings. For our AN team, these meetings allowed our team to be well-informed and effectively apply our varied interests, skills, and talents to keep pushing forward on our task lists.

One of the projects that I personally had the opportunity to collaborate on was assessing our beef feed offerings and reviewing formulas. We branded this as Beef Xcellence. Together, we simplified a good-better-best menu option, allowing you to choose the level of cost and nutrition that fits your needs.

The Beef Xcellence project was completed with identifiable bags, tags, and a colorful, easy-to-read, tri-fold brochure for reference. It’s been well received since the rollout in autumn 2020, and shows continued growth.

Forage Preservation Program

Addressing our “Forage Preservation” program of plastics, bale wrap, inoculants, and acids was an item on the list that benefited from a relationship approach with our Countryside partners. We presented our past sales numbers and projections for the forage preservation program to our industry partners and asked them to give us their most competitive prices and any added services.

After several virtual meetings between Landmark and Countryside to better understand and appreciate each other’s relationships and the needs of those we serve, we finalized a booking program that has already exceeded our expectations. A month into our early order offerings, we’ve booked more business than ever before. If you haven’t procured your forage preservation needs, please reach out to your Animal Nutrition team. The best early-order pricing ends Feb 28, 2021.

Positive Start to 2021

I could go on to list cross-divisional successes, improved efficiencies and safety standards, and stories of employees going above and beyond, but I’ll just say that it’s great to see and be a part of this progress.

Yes, COVID has robbed us of some joy, but the attitude and momentum of your AN division is really positive! We look forward to serving you through innovative and responsible solutions in 2021 and the years to come.

Feel free to contact me or your local sales representative with any questions or orders.

Chris Kafer
Dairy Technical Consultant
920-295-9503
Chris.Kafer@landmark.coop

Forage Solutions 2021 Booking Program

As 2020 winds down, it’s time to start looking into our Booking Program details for plastic and inoculants for 2021. This program was a focus area for the Animal Nutrition team this year as part of our efforts to bring more competitive pricing for our members, and once again we are seeing benefits of our merger with Countryside. With the increased volume, we were able to negotiate with vendors to secure the best products and pricing available.

On the plastic side, we offer a wide variety of options. One new product we’re excited to handle is the HytiDouble Bunker Cover, which has a 2 ml oxygen barrier and 5 or 6 ml plastic folded into one roll without adhesive. This gives an airtight seal to the forage, lowers the risk of tearing by almost 100%—and reduces labor.

I recommend booking your plastic needs as COVID could affect the availability of certain products into the future. There’s a large variety of plastic products, so please reach out to your local representative for specific products and pricing.

On the inoculant side, we have more options. We will offer our Forage Solutions inoculant through Provimi, a top-notch inoculant. Plus, with the merger, we’ve acquired a new partnership that allows us to offer Chris Hansen inoculants as well. And finally, be sure to check out two new and impressive acid products we’re offering: the Preserver 70 and the Hay Green.

Program options available:

2% discount– prepay by December 31, 2020 for plastic and/or inoculant order

Additional 3% discount on inoculant- by booking 100% of your plastic order by February 28, 2021

Early booking pricing available– available only on orders placed before February 28, 2021
(Delivery will occur in spring and fall 2021 with invoicing occurring at time of product delivery)
*2021 Verity Financing Programs can be used to capture these discounts*

Feel free to contact me or your local sales representative with any questions or orders.

Bill Calvert
Feed Product Specialist
(608) 732-2080
William.calvert@landmark.coop

A Recap of 2020 Forages

By Joe Gier, Landmark Dairy Technical Consultant
608-628-2152 | joseph.gier@landmark.coop

In the dairy industry, 2020 will go down as a crazy year with the number of challenges the industry has faced due to the onset of COVID-19. However, it does look like there are going to be some bright spots in the dairy business as we approach year end. One of those highlights for most farms in Southern Wisconsin is the forage production from this summer and early fall.

As farms came out of spring 2020, the one thing that they could not afford was another extremely wet summer. Many farms were very low or even out of haylage. Luckily, we did not see much for winter kill this spring, which allowed a good first crop harvest to start accumulating a haylage supply. The second, third, and fourth crops for most farms were not bumper crops, but we did get cooperative weather, for the most part, and a decent haylage supply.

There are ways that you can conserve this year’s haylage supply. Plan with your nutritionist now to ensure that the haylage you harvested will be fed at a rate that will make it last until next summer. It may also be a good time to consider a fall fertilizer application on the hay fields to help boost quality and tonnage for next year. In addition, rather than feeding haylage to heifers, you can feed them crops like rye, wheatlage, triticale, and sudan grasses. Analyze your cropping situation and see if one of these crops will work for you to feed young stock, so you can save your good haylage for the lactating cows.

Now is also a good opportunity to look at whether or not a fall/winter seeding will help your dairy. As the harvest progresses, there will likely be time later this fall to get these seedings in. Some important factors to consider are when to harvest these crops next spring, and what day length seed selection to use on your corn once these crops are harvested.

This fall, most dairies have expressed satisfaction with the tonnage and feed quality of their corn silage. Some dairies went so far as to allocate nearly all of their corn acres to silage varieties, and have harvested large amounts of corn silage to rebuild their supply. These same dairies took opportunities throughout the past 12 months to layer in ground corn contracts so they could devote more acres to silage. Look at your forage analysis to see if your silage has high starch value and high digestibility, and the potential to deliver tonnage to the bunker. Remember that the higher you can get your forages in digestibility, the more forage you can feed your cows at a lower feed cost. Higher quality forages also tend to lead to better components, which will help on your milk check premiums.

By examining the results of the 2020 forage crop and preparing early for the 2021 cropping season, you should be positioned for a very profitable year in 2021.

 

Transition Cows: A Few Ideas to Help Reduce the Headaches

By Cari Slater, Dairy Technical Consultant, Landmark Services Cooperative
608-712-7617 | Cari.Slater@landmark.coop

Are your transition cows giving you grief? Are you seeing issues like retained placentas (anything over 12 hours fits into this category), ketosis, DAs, metritis, the occasional milk fever case, slow milk start-ups, lower peak milk, or reduced conception rates? Sometimes, we need to take a step back and review the basics. As a nutritionist, my goal is to help producers set these girls up for success and prevent transition problems—rather than trying to fix the problems once they’ve occurred.

When looking at a prefresh diet, I tend to focus on three principles (and I would say that they’re equally important):

  • Mineral Balance (DCAD) and Calcium
  • Energy Level
  • Metabolizable Protein

Mineral Balance: Prefresh dietary mineral balance has a huge impact on the success of your transition cows. While most farms no longer see frequent cases of clinical hypocalcemia (milk fever), there are still plenty of cows that are affected by subclinical hypocalcemia. The latter has been dubbed a “gateway disease” because it leads to many of the transition issues listed above. I typically recommend a negative DCAD, high-calcium diet to my customers as the first option when formulating a prefresh diet to reduce these subclinical cases.

Energy Level: The metabolizable energy of the entire dry period should be monitored and controlled. This is no different for the prefresh diet. The dry period is typically not the time for cows to either gain or lose condition.

Metabolizable Protein:  During the last few weeks of the dry period, the cow’s requirements for metabolizable protein increase greatly. This is driven by her need to grow a calf as well as to develop her udders for the upcoming lactation. Making sure that the diet meets these needs is critical for a productive lactation as well as a healthy calf.

It’s also critical to remember that no matter how well-balanced the diet, there are other factors that can derail your transition cows. These may include:

  • Lack of bunk space
  • Poor cow comfort
  • Moving cows to new pens within seven days of calving
  • Fat cows (they are almost always the first ones to cut back on intakes as they get closer to calving)
  • Inadequate post-fresh ration
  • Twins

Prefresh diets do not need to be complicated. If your dairy is set up to mix a custom prefresh diet, that is always the best approach. However, Landmark does offer solutions for smaller dairies when it comes to feeding your prefresh cows. For example, Landmark carries a negative DCAD prefresh pellet (LSC Prefresh, 26109) that was designed specifically with the small dairy in mind. Whether you have 100 prefresh cows or five, Landmark has options for you.

Please contact a member of the Landmark Animal Nutrition team to talk about how we can help.

 

 

 

 

Using Milk Starts to Evaluate Herd Performance

Written by Michelle Woodman, Dairy Technical Consultant, Landmark Services Cooperative

DairyComp 305 is an important management tool used by dairy producers to record, store, and analyze herd activities, events, and productivity. One useful application of DairyComp 305 is tracking 4 week milk starts as an indicator of performance in your herd.

Milk starts are an estimate of milk production that adjusts all animals to similar DIM (Days in Milk) for accurate comparisons. Milk starts can be evaluated at any time early in lactation with Week 4 and 8 being the most common time frames used by dairy consultants. Milk start values are an indication of how consistently and effectively animals are “transitioning” into early lactation and thus lactational profits.

Historically, dairymen and consultants have focused on peak milk or the adjusted metric for total lactation milk (ME305). Both of those metrics have a large amount of lag (delay) before being evaluated, potentially resulting in significant loss of income before a change can be made. Today we know that how cows start is how cows peak and finish their lactation. Milk starts allow consultants to more effectively identify and manage transition performance trends and strategically implement changes to improve profitability. Milk starts also give an early indication of how cows are transitioning and are the preferred metric to evaluate nutritional interventions since they have minimal lag and accurately predict performance and profitability for the rest of the lactation.

When applying milk starts, you can establish performance goals for each lactation group and can be ready to evaluate lactation performance. These goals should be a percentage amount above an established “cutoff” for each time frame evaluated, such as month fresh. Cutoff goals will differ among herds due to breeds, genetics, feedstuff, and housing—the first step is knowing where you are currently and establishing a plan to reduce variation and/or increase the cutoff level for your herd. Milk starts are an excellent metric to evaluate nutritional and management interventions to the pre- and post-fresh groups. Depending on the response lag for the change, new milk start trends, levels, and variation can be quickly monitored each month. By successfully managing the transition program, it sets the stage for improved performance throughout the subsequent lactation of the herd.

Contact your Landmark Technical Dairy Consultant for further assistance in monitoring milk starts for your herd.

Alfalfa – Mow It, Merge It, Harvest It

Here are helpful guidelines to keep in mind for making high quality haylage.

Ready to Mow?

  • First cutting of haylage timing is everything
  • 24 inches tall – Alfalfa/Grass
  • 29 inches tall – Straight Alfalfa
  • Yes, planting season is upon haylage harvest, but you can’t afford to wait on haylage
  • Haylage gains 1 NDF per day past maturity
    • Corn silage loses less quality and yield if planted after haylage—it can wait
  • Proven method of utilizing photosynthetic drying in wide swaths to maximize drying
  • Keep dirt out!
    • Less than 10% Ash
    • Mow at 3.5 inches if using a tedder to prevent mixing of dirt into forage

Ready to harvest?

  • Once merged the dry matter game is over—it will not dry more
  • Chopping
  • Keep chopper tuned
  • Make a clean cut
  • Treating
    • Using a high quality inoculant to enhance dry matter retention: This is beneficial to alfalfa haylage due to the high buffering capacity. Because of higher protein content, salts, and minerals, alfalfa benefits when more lactic acid is added, which helps drop the pH in initial phases.
    • Forage SOLUTIONS Haylage WS 500T Guaranteed Analysis: 136 billion CFU/g of product Apply 1 g/ton forage to provide 150,000 CFU/g haylage
    • Also available as a dry granular product: Forage Solutions Haylage DG 50T
  • Packing in layers 6 inches or fewer
    • Tons per hour x 800 = equivalent packing weight

Dry Matter is Key!

Steps to Help Manage COVID-19 on the Farm

Having a plan keeps operations running smoothly in case of any disruption. With farmers starting to prepare for spring planting, on-farm staff activity levels will begin to increase. Listed below are the NCGA (National Corn Growers Association) recommendations regarding COVID-19:

  • Identify and coordinate a drop-off location for supplier deliveries to the farm. If possible, set this up away from on-farm high traffic areas and housing.
  • Create specific instructions for drop-off deliveries.
    • Provide the location and all procedures needed at the drop-off point.
    • Create signage to easily identify drop-off points. Provide contact information of staff who can assist with questions leading up to delivery and upon arrival.
    • Practice physical distancing with delivery drivers. In these circumstances, it is best not to greet them with a handshake. Instead, keep a recommended distance of at least six feet.
    • Log all deliveries and on-farm entries. Use a visitor’s log for everyone entering the farm.
    • Monitor personal travel with a personal travel log.
  • Prepare the on-farm workforce, including your family members.
    • Provide guidance for hand washing and handling materials. Make sure that guidance is available and communicated to employees.
    • If you have off-farm employees or seasonal help inform them that all sick employees must stay at home.
    • If you have added sanitizing materials within your facilities or vehicles, tell employees where they can find them.
    • If your operation has a large number of employees, encourage them to avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing during non-work hours.
  • Sanitize contact surfaces.
    • Disinfect all door handles and knobs, floor mats, steering wheels, and other commonly contacted surfaces.
    • Sanitize common gathering places including facilities, lunch areas, and office spaces.

Planning enables you to provide a healthy workplace while maintaining high productivity and minimizing disruptions during spring planting season.

Choosing the right way to deliver your cattle supplement

When it comes to selecting the right supplement for your cattle, there are two preferred methods of mineral supplements designed to provide consistent intake: loose minerals and mineral tubs.

Feeding free choice loose mineral

Feeding minerals free choice in loose form is the most commonly used method. Loose mineral works great in most cases, but may be dispersed or damaged by wind and precipitation, and can cake if it gets wet. It’s usually cheaper per head per day, and many different forms are available. Make sure that you use the correct mineral depending on the time of year and what you’re using it for. Use a covered feeder to help reduce the amount of rain and snow that gets in the feeder, and clean your feeders often.

Mineral tub

Mineral tubs are weather resistant and often promote a more consistent intake of minerals. You can move tubs to different areas in the pasture with ease, thus enticing your cattle to graze under-utilized pasture ground. Certain tubs also contain protein, which is especially beneficial if you have lower quality forages or pasture.

Both loose mineral and mineral tubs have their place on certain farms. Every farm is different, and what works for the neighbor may not work for you. Consider the best placement of the tub or the loose mineral feeder. If possible, move the mineral or tub often as animals will often hang around areas where the mineral is offered. Be mindful to keep mineral and tubs at least 50 feet away from a water source—this will help reduce over-eating. And always offer clean drinking water.

Using the correct mineral and nutrition is vital to reproductive health and also cow/calf health. Pastures are often lacking in calcium, phosphorus, and salt, and at certain times of the year, they may be lacking other minerals, as well. Talk with your Landmark nutritionist and ask questions to help build the correct feeding program that best suits your cattle’s needs.

Excellent Pricing for Soyhull Pellets with April Forward Contracting

Landmark has excellent buying opportunities for April-forward contracting on soyhull pellets. Dairy and beef producers struggling with forage inventories after several poor years of harvest and quality issues should consider products like soyhull pellets, corn gluten pellets and cottonseed to extend forages by providing fiber to the diet.

For more information, please contact:

  • Bill Cody – Formulation and Risk Management Coordinator
  • Phone: 608-819-3305
  • Email:  feedcommodities@landmark.coop