With input costs on the rise, farmers across the country are looking for ways to improve profitability and reduce spending. Feed is a big cost center and one that often gets scrutinized, but during the November Hoard’s Dairyman webinar, Mike Hutjens advised the audience that the ration is not the place to cut corners.
“Cutting back on milk production is bad news,” said Hutjens, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. That’s because we only get to set peak milk once in a lactation, he explained, and if a cow’s production is hindered, that is the lactation curve we are “stuck with” for the next 300 days.
Hutjens shared that 1 pound of dry matter costs about 16 cents right now, while 1 pound of milk is worth about 24 cents. One pound of extra dry matter intake supports 2 or more pounds of milk production. The value of those 2 pounds of milk is 48 cents, minus 16 cents for the pound of dry matter it takes to produce those 2 pounds, leading to a profit of 32 cents per cow per day for each pound of dry matter consumed.
“That is profit,” Hutjens said. “I am not going to underfeed my herd of cows.”
He also pointed to some feed benchmarks from Illinois for the upcoming year in the table below. At a feed cost of 16 cents per pound of dry matter, it costs $8.16 per cow per day. The difference in the return on the feed investment between cows milking 80 pounds per day and those milking 70 pounds per day is quite stark.
It costs less money per 100 pounds of milk to feed cows that are milking more, and the income over feed costs goes up almost $1.50 for cows producing 80 pounds compared to those milking 70 pounds. Feed efficiency climbs from 1.43 pounds of milk per pound of dry matter to 1.63 pounds when milk production is at 80 pounds per day. These numbers further support Hutjens’ advice to not undercut a cow’s milk potential.
“High producing cows are most efficient and most profitable,” Hutjens emphasized. “Don’t restrict or penalize good cows.”
To hear more from Hutjens about feed quality and availability for 2023, watch the November Hoard’s Dairyman webinar, “A feed and forage outlook for the year ahead.”