LOWER YOUR HEIFER FEEDING COSTS
A recent article by Rick Mooney of the Dairy Herd made a good evaluation of factors that can give you a good cost-effective start in raising heifers. Since Heifers make up 20% of farm budgets, any savings in feed costs can actually be significant. Read more of his detailed tips and ideas below:
With milk prices slumping, making it a priority to trim feed costs in the heifer-rearing program will be a worthwhile undertaking for many dairy farmers, says Matt Akins, University of Wisconsin dairy specialist.
After all, heifers account for around 20% of the total cost on most dairies. What’s more, feed costs typically make up about 50% of all heifer expenditures. Here’s how to keep costs under control:
- Determine the right number of heifers for your herd. “It’s a balancing act,” Akins says. “You want to have enough heifers to replace cull cows. But having too many will drive up feed costs unnecessarily.” Herd size, cow culling rates, first calving dates for heifers, heifer culling rates, facilities and plans for expansion will all be a part of your calculations.
- Reduce days on feed. An average age at first calving greater than 22 to 24 months means feeding heifers longer than necessary, translating into higher feed costs. To avoid that, aim to start breeding heifers at 13 months and have them confirmed pregnant by 15 months. Work with your nutritionist to ensure an adequate pre-breeding growth rate of about 1.8 lb. per day, then target to breed when animals are at 55% of mature body weight (around 825 lb. to 900 lb. for Holsteins).
- Step up feed bunk management. Spending just a few minutes a day to check for refusals in the feed bunk can lead to significant savings in feed usage over time. Akins suggests setting up a simple bunk scoring system that assigns a value of zero through three based on how much feed is left in the bunk from the previous day’s feeding. In this kind of system, a slick, cleaned out bunk would score a zero and indicate more feed should be included in the follow-up feeding. A bunk with just a few scattered refusals would earn a score of one, and no changes in daily feed deliveries would be necessary. Bunks with significant amounts of leftover material would score two or three making it necessary to back off on delivery amounts.
- Feed higher-fiber forages. Keeping the rumen full by replacing corn silage/haylage in rations with higher fiber ingredients (warm season grasses, stover and straw) will lead to reduced intakes and lower costs. “A side benefit is that you won’t see as much over conditioning in pregnant heifers,” Akins says.
- Consider limit-feeding. The basic idea with limit-feeding is to cut back on total feed intake (by 10% to 20%) while still delivering required energy and protein amounts. In most cases, that will mean scaling back on forages and bumping up amounts of low-cost concentrates (think byproducts such as distillers grain or corn gluten feed). “You’re still putting same amount of nutrients into the heifers, just in smaller packages,” Akins says. Making the strategy pay off will require formulating least-cost rations, having adequate bunk space available so less aggressive animals aren’t crowded out during feeding, pushing feed up more often (especially within the first hour or two of feeding) and weighing animals more often to stay on track with meeting performance goals.
- Incorporate grazing into your feeding program. In most cases, you’ll need to do some supplemental feeding (1 lb. to 3 lb. per day depending on the pasture) in order to meet performance goals. But you’ll want to consider whether the time and money it takes to develop pastures is really worth your while, Akins says.
Hustler agrees with Rick Mooney and is yet again offering a solution!
As we constantly have been rethinking the everyday, reducing the costs for farmers has been one of the most important benefits we would like to offer with our products.
WITH HUSTLER’S BALEFEEDERS, YOU CAN LOWER YOUR COSTS!
LOWER YOUR COSTS BY INCREASING CAPACITY TO FEED (COMPLEMENTS #2 and 3)
With Hustler’s unique bale feeding system, the fodder is evenly spread out without destroying its quality, while enabling more cattle to be able to eat at the same time. This definitely reduces the risk of injury and malnutrition as hieffers may eat at the same time without trampling the feed. No need for any other special feeders like that need to be maintained. Just one balefeeder and you’re all set!
LOWER YOUR COSTS BY CUTTING DOWN LABOR TIME AND DECREASING THE MESS (COMPLEMENTS #2 and 3)
The Hustler Bale feeding system is simpler and faster than many realise. Bales can be spread out enough for a complete herd within two to three minutes for each bale. Plus there is no time required to shift hay rings, repair pasture, clean up mud, and even manure, if you feed in a different spot every day. This certainly reduces the health risks for the cattle and dramatically cuts down labor time.
Hay waste is inevitable. All farms have waste but inadequate feeding management increases it tremendously. In the United States, it is estimated that the total value of hay losses nationwide exceeds three billion dollars annually! On some farms, such losses account for over 10% of the cost of livestock production. This wastage is high particularly with round bales stored outside in high rainfall areas. The waste generated from feeding may come from two sources: storage loss and feeding loss.
Leaving bales out in the weather deteriorates good hay or silage. If bales are stored outside on the ground without any cover, it increases mositure content and weathering beings rapidly. Unweathered hay or silage is more palatable and higher in nutrients. Feeding out fresh-for-the-day results in better feed value and less wastage. Store hay in the proper way, under a roof is best, but if that is not possible, on well-drained soil in a north-south orientation, stacked tightly end-to-end.
LOWER YOUR COSTS BY PRESERVING YOUR PASTURE AS YOU FEED (COMPLEMENTS # 4, 5 and 6)
A large benefit of feeding in a new bit of ground every day through the Hustler system is the value of the cattle manure being spread more evenly around the pasture. This will help soil fertility and at the same time relieve maintenance costs and labor costs. Aside from this, the Hustler system helps re-seed the pasture when feeding seedy hay. If hay feeding is done in a different spot everyday, there is an increased chance of any dropped seed germinating in the spring, effectively re-seeding your pasture.
LOWER YOUR COSTS BY LIMIT FEEDING (COMPLEMENTS # 4, 5, and 6)
Baled silage or high moisture wrapped bales are more nourishing that regular hay. It has the complete nutritional value the cattle require for a copious supplementary feed. However, because of its moisture, it is very prone to spoilage and wastage if not properly served and consumed. The Hustler feeder can feed out baled silage without any hassle. There is also no need to manually add grain supplement to the dry hay when you can feed baled silage on its own very easily.
INVEST IN A HUSTLER BALEFEEDER NOW AND ENJOY ALL THE BENEFITS WHILE LOWERING YOUR FEEDING COSTS.