Farm Horizons, May 2007

Price of dairy feed becoming a concern, expo presenter says

By Roz Kohls
Herald Journal, Staff Writer

Biofuels’ demand drives up costs of corn, soybeans

In the past six months, the economics of feeding a dairy herd has changed dramatically.

Jim Paulson of the University of Minnesota said in a presentation this spring at the Dairy Expo in Norwood Young America that the production of biofuels is increasing costs for corn and soybeans.

Paulson, a regional extension dairy educator, presented a seminar on “Matching Alternative Feeds to Forages” at the 15th annual exposition in Central High School. The expo also included seminars on transition cow management, reproductive challenges of high producing cows, speaking out on behalf of the dairy industry, and labor management.

Paulson said right now the futures’ market is indicating higher prices for current supplies of corn, soybeans and by-products of these foodstuffs, as well as future planting acres.

“The question is, how will this affect the way we feed cows in the future?” Paulson asked.

Forages are the foundation and base of feeding programs for dairy cows. “If the high prices continue, high quality forages could play a larger role in meeting the nutrient needs of dairy cattle,” he said.

The feeds included in the grain or starch, and protein or rumen degradable sections are important for balancing energy and protein deficiencies in the forage part of the diet.

“As demand drives the price of corn up, the question dairy and all livestock producers are asking is, will corn get too expensive to feed, and what are the alternatives if that becomes true,” Paulson said.

Lactating dairy cows require a certain amount of starch in the diet to efficiently produce milk. Alfalfa has always been superior to grasses for crude protein content, he said.

Corn distillers’ grains are receiving attention too. Much like corn silage and alfalfa complement each other as forages, corn distillers and soybean meal complement each other as protein sources, Paulson said.

Another corn by-product is corn gluten feed. It is higher in starch than corn distillers’ grain, but lower in fat, which makes it more versatile, he said.

Whole fuzzy cottonseed remains a popular ingredient because it offers a unique combination of protein, energy and fiber. Soy hulls and beet pulp are two other sources of highly digestible feed, Paulson said.

“Soybean meal has been the standard protein sources for livestock in the upper midwest for many years. Other sources available, however, are linseed meal and canola meal,” he added.

Paulson also listed roasted soybeans and blood meal.

Many alternative feedstuffs are available in Minnesota which can be used in dairy cattle diets, he concluded.

“Forages are the foundation of all dairy cattle diets and emphasis should always be on harvesting high quality forages at the correct moisture and stored properly. Use of alternatives feeds depends on the animal being fed and the forages available,” Paulson said.

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