Farm Talk

June 25, 2013

Forage quality increases dairy production

Laura Mushrush

Parsons, Kansas — Increasing animal health and milk production — both relate to forage quality, Tony Rickard MU Extension dairy specialist said during University of Missouri’s first Southwest Dairy Field Day.

“Forage quality is the single most important thing you can do,” he said while urging dairy producers not to cut corners to save money on feed rations.

Rations should be balanced based on nutrients, not feed costs. Cheaper feed stuff with unnecessary nutrients will not pay out to producers who should be after quality, not quanity.

“Money is going to be made with quality forage,” he stated. “It’s high, but the response you get is because of its value, not its cost.”

According to Rickard,  feeding cows undesirable nutrients to save money is like buying gasoline for a diesel truck.

“Tailor fuel to the needs of the machine or it’s not going to work for you,” he stated. “A least-cost ration program won’t feed your cows.”

Joe Horner Extension economist with the MU Commercial Agriculture Program agreed, telling producers to design their ration around forage.

“Half the milk in Missouri is coming from 17 counties in Southwest Missouri,” Horner said. “These guys used high forage quality.”

When building an economic plan, grazing and confinement producers need to focus on feed quality, labor efficency and replacements.

As the dairy industry adapts to rising feed prices, Horner advised all producers to run their dairy as sharp as they can and not to mix and match grazing or confinement methods.

“Play the game you’re playing to the nth degree,” he said. “Don’t mix and match models.”

Rickard also encouraged producers to stay consistent, advising not to switch feed rations and providers too often due to microbes in the cow’s rumen needing to adapt.

“Unless you’re going to save 5-10 cents a say, you better think twice before changing feed,” Rickard said.

For more questions about how you can optomize dairy production contact Rickard at rickardt@mis or Horner at hornerj@mis £