June 14 2012 11:54 AM

Simple strategies and analysis of your purchases can help you navigate the feed-price roller coaster.

by Amanda Smith, Associate Editor, Hoard's Dairyman

Oftentimes when feed prices rise, your gut reaction is to start pulling high-priced ingredients from the ration. While cows need nutrients and not particular ingredients, rapid dietary changes negatively impact the cow's rumen. At the Four State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference, Normand St. Pierre, with The Ohio State University, provided a few ways you can attempt to navigate and survive during times of turbulence in the feed price market.

Shop better: Can you buy the same feed somewhere else? If you investigate alternatives though make sure you're comparing apples to apples. While two ingredients may have the same name, there is no guarantee they have the same nutritive values.

Feed is often purchased with a variety of services bundled in. The services may have value but prior to committing make sure it is a service that you need and that it is being delivered at a comparable price.

Take advantage of cash discounts: In addition to helping you manage cash flow, cash discounts can present a significant savings when totaled at year-end. If the companies you work with offer a 1 percent discount for paying 15 days early, it can have an APR of 25 percent. On the flip side, avoid outstanding credit card balances.

Shop wiser: Keep on the lookout for underpriced feeds (which are different than cheap feeds) and avoid overpriced feeds. When purchasing, compare feed ingredients and nutrient composition.

Avoid black holes: Dropping the level of shrink for both commodities and silages can present a considerable boost to your bottom line. Additionally, don't cut corners; for some herds there can be value in multiple rations and grouping based on production and nutritional needs. Determine whether there is value in using additives to correct management flaws or if your best value comes from finding another solution to the problem.

Reduce the welfare checks to your dry cows and heifers: The checks are written by your lactating herd. While you shouldn't short change either nonproductive group, are there changes you can make to feed them the nutrients they need at a lesser cost? .