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Extra feed equals extra dollars for dairy farmers

12 March 2014

Extra feed equals extra dollars for dairy farmers

With farmgate milk prices at an all-time high, maintaining production for the final months of the season is a priority for dairy farmers, and getting those extra kilos of milk solids means making some good calls around feed.

Low rainfall and drying winds in some parts of the country is slowing grass growth, while in other regions, there has been enough rain to maintain good pasture conditions. Ballance Agri-Nutrients General Manager Sales, Andrew Reid says farmers taking stock of mid-summer feed supplies can look to Ballance for the right advice on nutrient choices to keep herds producing.

“Because we take cover the complete farm nutrients spectrum, we’re in a good position to help farmers use forage and supplementary feed to keep up production. What to use, and when, will all depend on individual farm goals and weather conditions.”

Ballance Science Manager, Aaron Stafford says the “grow your own feed” approach stacks up competitively when conditions are right. Products like SustaiN, which is urea coated with the urease inhibitor AGROTAIN® nitrogen stabiliser, work by reducing ammonia volatilisation, which can be a problem when rainfall does not immediately follow application. An average autumn nitrogen response is around seven kilos of dry matter for every kilogram of nitrogen applied.

“As all farmers know, you need to watch the weather if using standard urea and without 5-10 mm rainfall within 8 hours of application, ammonia volatilisation losses from standard urea can be in excess of 10-15% of the nitrogen applied. We know from our work with AgResearch and Landcare Research that using SustaiN will deliver about 50% reduction in volatilisation loss, relative to standard urea”

Results from Ballance animal nutrition division SealesWinslow’s Tracker™ System shows herds being tracked for production have achieved 60-65% of this season’s targets, but in drier regions where grass growth is reduced there is the risk of falling short of production goals. SealesWinslow Consultant Nutritionist James Hague says rather than focusing on the cost of individual feed, farmers should concern themselves more with margins over feed and forage.

“Working out the cost versus benefit of each individual feed can be tricky as in practice the total diet is just one feed to the cow, so it’s important to get a good handle on what the diet costs per cow per day and offset this against the milk income to find the margin.”

For example:

Per cowStay the sameFeed moreDifference
Milk production(KgMS)
Milk income (@ $8.65 payout)$12.11$13.28+$1.73
Diet cost (average cost of extra DM = 35 cents)$3.20$3.90+$0.70

“If cows are milking at just 0.2 KgMS below their potential for the remaining 100 – 110 days left of the season, the 20-22 KgsMS lost would mean around $180 of income per cow of lost opportunity. For a 350 cow herd that’s $63,000,” says Mr Hague.

Mr Hague and Mr Stafford both advise farmers to look closely at feed plans now, as feed and forage need to work hand in hand for the best results.


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