Saving on Feed and Labour: Still the Two Main Costs

US – Feeding slightly lower crude protein and handling more cows per man could save costs, although watch out for its effect on output, warns a South Dakota dairy specialist.
calendar icon 27 November 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

Operating costs taken from Upper MidWest dairies show that feed is still the main expense at 50 per cent of production cost and 77 per cent of operating cost.

For this reason, Professor Alvaro Garcia, dairy specialist at South Dakota State University suggests that feeding a 17 per cent crude protein diet needs questioning.

But, his most important message is; Don't do it if it will affect your cows. 

“You can bring crude protein down to 16 and still be at 90 pounds of milk provided you have the adequate bypass protein,” says Professor Garcia. “Feed forages with highly digestible fibre - this will reduce the grain bill.”

He adds that Neutral Detergent Fibre should be around 65 and 75 per cent.

After feed, labour is the second main drain at six per cent of operating cost. Stockmen can now take care of twice the number of cows they could have in the past.

“Fifty cows to a man was the benchmark,” explains Professor Garcia. “Modern dairy operations however can handle 100 cows per employee.”

However, he warns that cutting on labour can easily result in cow health problems.

“Saving insignificant amounts of money in labour might negatively impact cow health, increase mastitis, and increase somatic cells. This will reduce your paycheck and increase the veterinary bills.”

Veterinary bills came third on MidWest farms. Professor Garcia dismisses the old saying ‘Good hay keeps the vet away’ as a bit simple for today’s means.

He stresses the importance of good calf health, applying the mantra, ‘Spend money in the animal group that uses the least of it.’

“Calves are the future of the farm and management and feeding programs can make or break a dairy,” concludes Professor Garcia.

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