DES MOINES, Iowa, Sept. 24, 2008 – Higher feed prices have put a new twist on developing a strategy for winter feeding for dairy producers. Forage experts from Pioneer Hi Bred, a DuPont business, suggest there are steps livestock producers can take to make the transition to new feedstocks as efficient as possible from an economic and production perspective.
"Every year is different," says Leo Brown Pioneer livestock information manager. "Because a feed ration worked last year and the year before, doesn't mean a producer shouldn't look at options. Producers need to be efficient, making the most cost-effective choices while meeting production goals."
Pioneer experts suggest dairy producers first examine feed supplies on hand. After evaluating current supplies, producers should decide what other feed sources are needed to supplement the desired rations. The formulation involves specifying the nutrient requirements or constraints for the ration, then finding the combination of feeds that meets or possibly exceeds these requirements at the lowest cost per pound.
"We have entered a new era for feeding economics," says Brown. "More than likely, feed will not return to the prices we have seen in years past. It's vital for producers to develop a strategy before moving forward with a feeding plan."
Producers also should consider the transition to new crop feedstocks. The digestibility of corn silage improves over time due to fermentation. While a majority of fermentation occurs within the first two to three weeks after the silage structure is filled, digestibility will continue to improve with time.
"It can be challenging to incorporate the old with the new," says Brown. "Whenever two feeds are not exactly the same, it is ideal to phase in the new feed. For example, use one-third of the new crop and two-thirds old crop for three to five days, then increase the amount of the new crop every couple of days for up to two weeks. The downside of this approach is cows have to adjust to multiple ration changes. The upside of this method is that it will help reduce rumen shock."
Over the winter and into spring, producers likely will experience several subtle changes in nutritional needs and will need to adjust rations accordingly. During winter months, with cold weather and depending on housing, higher digestibility rations may be needed to maintain the dairy cows' energy and performance levels. Moving into spring, acidosis can occur if a producer doesn't adjust to new weather and feed conditions.
"It's important to remember to adjust feeding levels in the spring," says Brown. "There are a couple of factors to keep in mind. First, maintenance levels are not the same with milder weather conditions and secondly, the silage digestibility of the feedstock has increased with time."
Every sector of the livestock industry is looking to refine feed rations and feedstock sources for maximizing profitability and nutrition.
"Within the last few years in the dairy industry, we have seen a huge change in the desire to achieve the best feed efficiency," says Brown. "Dairy producers have a unique situation in managing their feeding programs. Making a change to dairy feed rations sometimes can lead to an immediate increase in pounds of milk. However, with that increase, producers also may see a drop in butterfat. The last change made to the ration may explain part of it, but the increase in production also may just be diluting the butterfat content. Ration changes should be made with caution and through evaluation."
Pioneer recommends working with a nutritionist for guidance on a strategic feeding program that offers optimal overall profit. Producers should look at existing supplies, review the rations often for optimum production and profitability, and plan according to their livestock operation's needs.
"If a producer has a continuous calving cycle or an influx of extra animals in the fall, feed plans will change as needs change. All parts of a producer's feeding and management system should work well together and complement each other," says Brown.
For more information or to get connected to a Pioneer livestock nutrition expert, contact your local Pioneer representative. To learn more about Pioneer's Silage Zone program, a comprehensive planting-to-feeding plan, visit the Pioneer GrowingPoint® website at www.pioneer.com/silagezone and click on livestock nutrition. To access the GrowingPoint website, growers need a PIN and, if they do not have one, can contact their Pioneer sales professional.
Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, is the world's leading source of customized solutions for farmers, livestock producers and grain and oilseed processors. With headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, Pioneer provides access to advanced plant genetics in nearly 70 countries.
DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.
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