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Factors Affecting Feed Cost
Nutritionist formulate the rations based on animal requirements as well as the quality of feeds available. Regarding animal requirements, generally, higher producing cows will have lower feed cost per cwt. The reason being maintenance requirements (the amount of feed required to maintain the basic functions of the animal) would be diluted by higher levels of milk production. Hence, it would still be net positive to feed for high milk production even though the cost of feeds are high. The secret is to use a realistic level of production for formulating rations.
One of the biggest factor affecting feed cost is the forage quality. When forage quality is high, less concentrate is required to provide additional nutrients in order to support maintenance, growth, milk yield, health, and reproduction of the animals. Companies have conducted R&D in order to identify hybrids that yield well and are more digestible so that the animals can obtain more metabolised energy for higher milk production. For good quality forage, it is also important to harvest at the right time and manage the forage storage as well as feed-out in order to prevent secondary fermentation of silage or deterioration of hay once it has been baled.
Besides forage, another big factor affecting feed cost would be the cost of supplements, especially corn and soybean meal where they both are used to establish the price for most ingredients. Fortunately, when the cost of corn and soybean meal is high, there are a wide variety of alternatives available that are able to supply energy and protein in rations. The alternatives include traditional grains, protein supplements as well as the by-products from production of food, fiber or fuel. The main reason why by-product feeds is attraction is due to its low cost. With that being said, there are other factors to consider besides the cost of feed.
Most farmers will feed additional feed additives to boost milk production. These additives, when used accordingly, will provide a good return on investment in terms of milk production and other health benefits for the cows. However, there are many additives on the market that do not provide any substantial benefits. It is important to to review the usefulness of these additives before committing to it as they increase the cost of feed. No product, with or without research documentation should be used as a band-aid for bad farm management. This applies for other ingredients as well. As a general rule of thumb:
There are no magic pill.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
No product can defy the laws of physics.
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