Dairy management decision-making tools

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Free, easy-to-use, online, decision-making tools developed by University of Wisconsin-Extension specialists are available at http://www.DairyMGT.info to help dairy producers improve profitability and sustainability.

The tools cover many important aspects of farm management including: feeding, heifers, reproduction, production, replacement, finances, environment, and price risk. The tools can help producers make decisions such as whether or not they should expand their operation. For example the “Decision Support System Program for Dairy Production and Expansion” tool forecasts changes in herd structures; predicts heifer growth, tracks cow movement and cash flow, and more to help the producer decide if expansion is a viable option.

UW-Madison Dairy Science professor and Extension Specialist Dr. Victor Cabrera created the tools with the help of students and colleagues and all of information is based on scientific research. These tools range from very simple to complex and are available directly on the Web or as download in Microsoft Excel programs. Each tool comes with video demonstrations, instructions of use, and documentation on the topic. All programs are user-friendly and as simple as entering farm data into input boxes and clicking a button that makes the calculations. They also come with technical support, including help from Cabrera.

The tools are divided into seven categories:

  • Feeding
  • Heifers
  • Reproduction
  • Production
  • Replacement
  • Financial
  • Price Risk

Feeding category tools include:

  • Optigen Evaluator: calculates the economic value of using Optigen, a slow release urea feed aditive, with lactating dairy cows.
  • Income Over Feed Supplement Cost (IOFSC): allows the producer to see how milk production and profitability are affected by feed supplement costs and purchased feeds. User may tailor the inputs to specific needs and explore the costs of using different feed stuffs in order to optimize the balance of energy and protein.
  • The 4-State Dairy Extension Feed Cost Evaluator: This database benchmarks feed costs and income over feed costs (IOFC) for a group of participating herds. It is divided into eight steps in which rations for up to five groups of cows are defined, as well as sources, amounts, prices, and %DM of up to nine ingredients are defined for each main group of feed (forage, energy supplements, protein supplements and byproducts, and vitamin, minerals and additive supplements.)
  • Corn Feeding Strategies: calculates income over feed cost (IOFC), marginal value of milk to corn, and the optimal level of corn usage for milk prices, feed costs and stages of lactation.
  • Dairy Rations Feed Additive Break-Even Point: estimates the level of milk production needed to pay for ration feed additive ingredients.

Heifers category tools include:

  • Cost-Benefit of Accelerated Liquid Feeding Programs: compares conventional and accelerated heifer calf feeding programs. The inputs are customizable to meet specific conditions and upper and lower limits are included to offset outside factors.
  • Economic Value of Sexed Semen Programs for Dairy Heifers: compares profitability of using sexed semen with conventional semen in relation to conception rates up to five services.
  • Heifer Replacement: calculates the number of heifers needed as replacements to maintain a constant herd. It measures adults herd size, adult cow culling rate (including deaths), average month time to freshen, and calf-heifer culling rate (including deaths).
  • Heifer Break-Even: calculates the total cost of raising heifers at three points in time: 12 months, 24 months, and after 24 months. Intense input data is needed to customize results to farm specific conditions including. With this information you can find the opportunity cost of buying heifers versus raising them.

Reproduction tools include:

  • Economic Value of Sexed Semen Programs for Dairy Heifers: see information under Heifer tools.
  • UW-DairyRepro$: calculates and compares economic values of different dairy reproduction programs including Timed Artificial Insemination (TAI), Heat Detection (HD), and combinations of these methods. The user-friendly tool allows you to compare your program with alternative methods such as Ovysnch, Presynch-Ovsynch, and others.

Production tools include:

  • Decision Support System Program for Dairy Production and Expansion: Changes in herd structure are forecasted with this tool. Inputs are adaptable to any farm and accuracy is based on the quality and amount of user information provided. Summaries can be used to explore different management scenarios and strategies to improve production management.
  • Economic Analysis of Switching from 2X to 3X Milking: Higher milking frequency improves productivity per cow and overall. Additional expenses such as increased labor and feed costs are subtracted from increased revenue from milk to calculate expected increased profitability.
  • Lactation Benchmark Curves: compares Wisconsin Benchmark data with your own data for 18,000-30,000 lb/cow/year rolling herd average (RHA) and parities 1, 2, 3 and higher. Data was taken from 3.6 million records provided by Wisconsin AgSource Cooperative Services. Inputs include RHA, days in milk, and milk production in lb/cow/day.
  • Economic Evaluation of Using rbST: The cost-benefit of using recombinant bovine Somatotropin is evaluated in this tool. Inputs needed to use the tool include: estimated milk increase, milk price, the cost of bST, interval between injections, increased labor, costs and feed cost.

Replacement tools include:

  • Cow Value: calculates how much you can afford to pay for a cow if she does not add to overhead costs by measuring milk production, feed costs, labor costs, cull value, calf value and other expenses.
  • Heifer Replacement: By using this spreadsheet you can find the number of heifers that are needed as replacement to maintain a constant herd size. Herd size, cow culling rates, calf-heifer culling rates and age to first freshen are needed to use this tool.
  • Heifer Break-Even: see information under Heifers tools.

Financial tools include:

  • The Wisconsin Dairy Farm Benchmarking Tool: Based on the “Sweet 15” financial measures. This tool compares a dairy farm’s financial status with over 500 dairy farms in the state of Wisconsin.
  • The Decision Support System Program for Dairy Production and Expansion: (See Production tools.)
  • Optimum Coverage for LGM-Dairy Insurance: gives the optimum level of coverage while minimizing premium costs at various deductable levels. It determines the optimal level of coverage each month to reach the target net income over feed costs.
  • LGM Premium Dairy Sensitivity: graphs the gross margin guarantee and premium of a LGM-Dairy insurance contract to selected levels of feed, such as corn and soybean meal equivalents to cover with every cwt of milk.
  • Return to Labor: calculate the net revenue of a cow before covering the costs of labor. The user must input farm-specific production, pricing, and cost information in order to calculate partial and total revenues, partial and total costs, milk equivalents sold, total variable costs and return to labor.
  • Estimate Your Mailbox Price: predicts your mailbox price according to expected Class III price and future month.
  • Loan Calculator: calculates the principal and interest to be paid for a user defined loan amount, interest rate and period of payments.
  • LGM Dairy Feed Equivalent Calculator: To enter an LGM contract, on-farm feed stuffs must be converted into terms of corn and soybean equivalents. Following the framework on this chart any feed used on a farm can be easily converted into corn and soybean equivalents using the LGM-Dairy feed equivalent conversion tool.

Price Risk tools include:

  • LGM-Dairy Premium Sensitivity: (See Financial)
  • Optimum Coverage for LGM Insurance: (See Financial)
  • LGM-Dairy Premium: calculates your estimated premium for various deductible levels to aid you in your decision of engaging in Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy insurance. The latest available data is used to estimate the premiums by entering planned feed and milk production.
  • LGM-Dairy Feed Equivalent Conversion: (See Financial)

Source: University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension



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