Stockfeeds feature | Cutting costs can cut income

As I write this, the first prices for the 2024-25 milk season are being announced.

The farm gate price for milk has fallen compared to the last two seasons. As circumstances tighten it is only natural to look at our costs.

The bottom-line is, do not cut costs that will cut production.

We still have fixed costs and finance costs. They will still be there next month. We need to make every kilogram of milk solids count.

As US dairy legend, Professor Mike Hutjens, says: “Don’t give up milk”.

No-one has ever lost money milking cows that are healthy and performing efficiently.

And every cow eats six kilograms of dry matter every day for maintenance. We need to dilute this ‘fixed cost’.

To produce milk profitably we need healthy and productive cows and soils.

If I cut fertiliser costs and grow less feed, I will be worse off.

If I cut feed costs that impact cow health, I will again be worse off — with less production, lower in-calf rates, higher disease costs and higher cull rates.

Skimping on heifer costs means heifers coming into the herd under-done, using feed to grow, not produce milk (income).

One of the essential parts of setting cows up for profitable lactations is the part of the transition period which is pre-calving. Failing to get this right sees lower milk production, lower in-calf rates and more animal health issues in early lactation.

There are three challenges in the last three weeks of the dry period:

  • Maintaining dry matter intake.
  • Preparing the rumen for the milker ration, including the starch-based concentrate feed.
  • Minimising the risk of clinical and subclinical milk fever.

Feeding a highly palatable anionic source such as Phibro’s Animate allows these three challenges to be met.

Animate is highly palatable and energy-dense, assisting the cow with high dry matter and energy intake so the cow and calf are both receiving adequate nutrition.

Animate is nutrient-dense and, when fed with starch-based concentrates, assists the rumen adapt from the dry cow ration to the milker ration.

Animate’s low DACD value and high palatability helps the cow mobilise calcium from her bones and absorb calcium from her gut, so she has enough calcium for the stresses of calving and the new lactation.

The high palatability of Animate means that the taste does not have to be masked in the ration. Dairy cows readily accept it, so much so that when offered free access it can provide the basis of a successful transition program.

The palatability creates options for transition diets, with Animate able to be:

  • Included in the transition pellet.
  • Incorporated into a PMR or TMR.
  • Fed on top of grain/pellets in the dairy.
  • Fed free access from troughs in the paddock.

Research shows that milk fever costs milk.

A clinical milk fever cow produces 14 per cent less milk than her herd mates, and subclinical cows produce seven per cent less milk. And for every milk fever there are 10 subclinical milk fevers.

For a 300-cow herd producing 550kg MS, a milk fever incidence from seven per cent compared to two per cent is a production reduction of more than 6930kg MS.

At $8.25/kg MS that is more than $57,000 of lost milk income without considering health costs.

For more information on how Animate can help you in transitioning your cows, contact transition cow specialists Scott Barnett on 0439 645 846 or Andrea Henry on 0488 744 271.

– Scott Barnett

Dairy business manager, Phibro Australia