When faced with high feed prices and tight or negative margins, the temptation is to look for ways to reduce the feed bill, says Lee Kilmer, extension dairy specialist at Iowa State University.

Steer clear of the chopping blockBut don’t ax trace minerals and vitamins. Although milk yield will not decline immediately, and you might save about 6 cents per head per day on replacement heifers and about 20 cents per head per day for lactating cows, it doesn’t pay in the long run, Kilmer says.

“It could be a long-term disaster due to reduced growth rates on heifers, reduced immunity on all animals, and reduced fertility on both cows and heifers,” he says.

When reduced immunity leads to an increase in somatic cell counts, for example, there is an average drop of 1.5 pounds of milk for each oneunit increase in SCC linear score (say, from 3.2 to 4.3, for example).

Twenty cents doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?