Feed costs plays a tremendous role in the profitability of a farm. Prices of feed fluctuate everyday. What do you do when the feed costs are too high but you want to maintain a productive herd at the same time?
Deciding your goals
Firstly, it is crucial to get a handle of your financial situation. Find out what is your income-over-feed cost to get a rough idea what are your other expense besides feed.
After that is sorted out, can choose to either reduce the feed costs and production. This works so as long as the drop in feed costs in larger than the value of lost in production.
Another option is to reduce feed costs while maintaining productivity. This is the ideal scenario and it can be done by balancing rations for amino acids to optimise protein utilisation.
Final option is to maintain or increase feed cost to improve production. This works so as long as income-over-feed costs increase is greater than increase in ration cost.
Cows are creature of habits
In general, cows do not like changes.
Once you have set out your goals, start finding opportunities to offset high priced feeds without too much changes.
It is important to maintain rumen function. If corn is taken out of the diet, it is crucial to maximise fermentability by feeding high levels of sugar.
Corn can be fed in different forms such as grinded corn or steam-flaked corn. This will increase the fermentability.
If there is a decrease in corn and starch, that means less energy for the cows. Replace lost energy with an efficient source of energy such as rumen bypass fats which would not affect rumen function.
Finally, it is important to test every load. There is a very fine line between profitability or losing money as feed increases in cost. Ensure each new load of feed ingredient is tested so that you know exactly what is going into your cows.
In general, a well fed cow with well balanced diet will produce the best results.
When feed costs are high, focus on replacing the starch and energy lost.
Rumen fermentation enhancers and high quality rumen bypass fats are a good source of energy.
It is always challenging when feed costs are high, but that is not an impossible problem.
Consult your nutritionist, veterinarian or financial advisor to help you navigate through this period.
Regardless of what steps you have chosen, it is important to make sure the change is gradual rather than sudden as cows are a creature of habit.