Reduce feed cost and help environment at same time

 Resize text         Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

Editor's note: This Practice Builder was contributed by Tom Nauman, head nutritionist at Hoober Feeds in Gordonville, Pa.

If you have spent any amount of time with dairy producers recently, you know they have a lot on their minds. The price of milk, the cost of feed and survival are the main topics of conversation. Just try to talk to a farmer about what he might be able to do to help the environment and you run the risk of being run out the lane quicker than spit. But what would the dairyman's response be if you talked about helping to better manage feed costs, with an environmental benefit being thrown in on the side? Just the mention of the words "cutting feed costs" causes most dairy producers to perk up and pay attention. Such is the case with a new idea that is growing in the feed industry called "precision feeding."

Precision feeding is a strategy that was begun by a coalition of researchers at several universities in the mid-Atlantic region. This has occurred in response to the ongoing flow of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Chesapeake Bay from the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay Watershed that includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The goal of these researchers is to convince the industry to feed cows only the amount of N and P that the cow needs — and eliminate excesses which end up mainly in the manure which is distributed in fields throughout the bay watershed. As a company, we've always wanted to do what's best for the environment, but not at the expense of the producer, so we became involved in precision feeding with the goal of using the strategy to reduce feed inputs and improve production and profitability. Space in this column does not allow a full explanation of the strategy, but it involves a combination of complete and accurate forage analysis, balancing rations based on amino acids, using a rumen sub-model to accurately predict and capitalize on microbial protein production, and monitoring results using MUN's and milk nitrogen efficiency calculations.

Results have been very good, realizing that there is a learning curve for the nutritionist, the farmer and even the cows, although the cows seem quickest to adapt. We've been able to lower ration crude protein levels from the mid-17-percent range to levels as low as 15 percent with similar or better production of milk and milk components. By improving our management of the rumen, cow health (including reproduction) is almost always better. Improved carbohydrate nutrition increases microbial protein output and improves feed efficiency. Savings to the farmer have been anywhere from 15 cents to more than 50 cents per cow per day, depending on inputs before the ration changes were made, making it a win-win for the farmer and the feed company. And, by the way, it is better for the environment. Through manure analyses, we've been able to demonstrate lower levels of nitrogen in the manure after the ration changes have been made. Precision feeding needs to be looked at as a way for the dairy feed industry to be proactive with farmers facing the current financial crunch and with environmentalists looking to agriculture to be part of the solution for the problems of the Chesapeake Bay.

Comments (0) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

5M Series

Five M Series Models: 5065M, 5075M, 5085M, 5100M, and 5115M (65-115 hp). If you spend a lot of time on ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Leads to Insight