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Precision Feeding - Best for Cows, CAFO and Your Wallet

Jerry Bertoldo, Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

Last Modified: June 4, 2013
Precision Feeding - Best for Cows, CAFO and Your Wallet

That large fermentation vat with billions of microbes of many different types is a complex system. These rumen "bugs" are capable of turning fibrous material that has little nutritional value to simple stomached animals into a significant source of energy. However, far from a universal feed digester, the rumen has many quirks related to optimal function. This is where a precision feed concept really makes sense.

Think about the rumen as a combustion chamber or engine. The microbes, protein and carbohydrates are like the flame, fuel and the oxygen in the mechanical system. The more precise the delivery of the components - the volume, rate, ratio and mixing - the better the quality and quantity of end products. Volatile fatty acids (VFA's) and microbial protein (microbe "bodies" themselves) are the high value result of microbial growth and digestion of intake feed. Ruminants do not use carbohydrates like we do. They have to be fermented down into VFA's first. Proteins can either bypass the rumen or be changed by the microbes. Since these hard - working bugs need nitrogen in the form of peptides, urea or ammonia, some protein breakdown in the rumen is necessary to provide these.

It so happens that microbial protein is quite similar to milk protein in amino acid composition. Microbial protein yield can provide up to 60% of the cow's daily protein requirement, a good portion of which goes to produce milk. The beauty of this source of protein is that you can feed the bugs pretty basic (read cheap) sources of carbohydrates and protein (or even urea) and have them make high quality and readily available protein. Remembering the combustion chamber analogy, you have to blend the feed sources wisely to offer the rumen microbes what they need, when they need it and in the right ratios.

The issue of the other 40%-plus of the protein requirement lies more in the bypass or Rumen Undegraded Protein (RUP) category that enters the cow's mouth. Heat treated soy products are an example of commodities high in bypass protein. Added lysine and methionine in the diet is helpful in meeting the requirements for these essential amino acids. Feed stuffs vary in the amount and ratio of these key components.

The other major microbial process, fiber digestion (carbohydrates in the bigger picture) has to be considered as well. Fiber digesters are slow workers and finicky about what pH they work in. Too much starch with too little effective fiber and too little available nitrogen leads to acidosis, a pH drop, poor digestive efficiency and less quality microbial protein produced. What the bugs don't make you have to buy.

This year's growing conditions have left us with forage shortages and high feed commodity prices. The flexibility your nutritionist has to economically balance a ration that maximizes cows' digestion and makes the milk and components you are used to is under pressure. The tight margins being faced drive us to think first of controlling costs. Best cost versus least cost decisions are less palatable, but can result in reasonable returns for dollars invested. This will be a year where adding pricey amino acid analogs or record high quality protein blends might surprise you by the results. The catch is that you have to know by analysis what you are feeding, it must be mixed and delivered accurately as formulated and the basics of cow comfort have to be met to allow the animal to utilize what she eats.

Keep in mind that a cow's body condition, health and productivity are like a bank account. You can draw on it for just so long before you need replenish what was borrowed. This year will be a draw down year, but does not have to be a break the bank one.


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Upcoming Events

Dairy Cattle Summer Research Update

July 18, 2019
7:00-9:00pm
Batavia, NY

After the day's work is done, come hear about two new research trials conducted by Julio Giordano's lab:
  • Strategies for improving dairy cattle reproductive performance and economics
  • Using automated sensors for improving dairy cattle health monitoring and management

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Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm
Waterloo, NY

Join the Finger Lakes Graziers on a pasture walk and learn about soil health. 
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Announcements

USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 ? Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today the availability of a new web-based tool - developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin - to help dairy producers evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized
DMC, a voluntary risk management program that offers financial protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. It replaces the program previously known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Sign up for this USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) program opens on June 17.

"With sign-up for the
DMC program just weeks away, we encourage producers to use this new support tool to help make decisions on participation in the program," Secretary Perdue said. "Dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, but the DMC program should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry."

The University of Wisconsin launched the decision support tool in cooperation with FSA and funded through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. The tool was designed to help producers determine the level of coverage under a variety of conditions that will provide them with the strongest financial safety net. It allows farmers to simplify their coverage level selection by combining operation data and other key variables to calculate coverage needs based on price projections.

The decision tool assists producers with calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees associated with participation in
DMC. It also forecasts payments that will be made during the coverage year.

"
The new Dairy Margin Coverage program offers very appealing options for all dairy farmers to reduce their net income risk due to volatility in milk or feed prices," said Dr. Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Higher coverage levels, monthly payments, and more flexible production coverage options are especially helpful for the sizable majority of farms who can cover much of their milk production with the new five million pound maximum for Tier 1 premiums. This program deserves the careful consideration of all dairy farmers."

For more information, access the tool at fsa.usda.gov/dmc-tool. For
DMC sign up, eligibility and related program information, visit fsa.usda.gov or contact your local USDA Service Center. To locate your local FSA office, visit farmers.gov/service-locator.


New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.

https://nwnyteam.cce.cornell.edu/submission.php?id=761&crumb=dairy|1

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