• Dairies reporting more than 10,000 birds lost $64,401.51 worth of feed.
*Cost estimates reflect the annual cost per cow per year in 2009. Adapted from November 2012 Journal of Dairy Science
According to Kansas State research published two years ago in Human-Wildlife Interactions, starlings preferred to eat the energy-dense ingredients (i.e., starch) in a feedlot ration. If they like the starch sources found in feedlot diets, chances are they like the starch sources in your dairy diets, too. These feeds are some of the most expensive ingredients in your ration, as you well know.
There’s another problem, too. When birds “peck” and choose what they want to eat, it can alter the composition of the diet fed to your cows. The extent of this problem depends on the number of starlings or other invasive birds present on your operation, as well as where they are feeding from (i.e., stored feed versus feed at the bunk). However, if you’ve ever had a bird infestation equivalent to the likes of the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock classic, you understand this can make an impact on the nutrients your cows are actually consuming.
Burgeoning bird populations also affected shrink levels on farms responding to the USDA survey. Dairies harboring 1 to 1,000 birds lost 4.2 percent of their feed supply to spoilage. That figure increased to 5.2 percent for dairies reporting populations of 1,001 to 10,000 birds and 9.3 percent for dairies with upward of 10,000 birds.
Bird-control strategies differ in terms of their cost and effectiveness, but now you have even more incentive to find a method that works for your operation.