Dairy cost reduction strategies pay dividends for producers

BURTRUM, Minn. - Cost reduction strategies can maximize the value of replacements in the dairy herd.

BURTRUM, Minn. - Cost reduction strategies can maximize the value of replacements in the dairy herd.

Regional extension educator Jim Salfer discussed herd replacement costs and culling economics at the recent Todd County dairy day.

Feed is the highest cost of production with replacement costs about the same as labor. Herd replacements can be 15 percent to 25 percent of the total cost of the dairy, he said.

The biggest factor that affect the herd is the number of replacements available.

Failure to breed, mastitis, lameness and poor transition management all affect the number of replacements needed.


Consider the culling economics. Is it more profitable to keep a cow, or replace her?

The goal is to maximize profit per cow space. The lost profit of an empty stall is between $600 to $800.

Cows can also be fed differently than in the past, Salfer said. Crop residues and wet distillers grains are options.

Grazing instead of confinement pre-breeding is an option. Fertilizing pastures can make them more productive.

Other things to consider include weaning animals younger, early use of a starter, procure forages, avoid over feeding and get the animals bred on time.

The dairy producers were briefed on the 400,000 somatic cell count limit, which is part of the European Health Certification Program. The limit, based on a rolling three month average for individual farms, will go into effect Jan. 1.

When the 400,000 limit was discussed over the past year, many producers acted to reduce SCC limits, the dairy professionals said.

Last summer about 20 percent of the farms were at 400,000 or above, said Todd County Extension educator Randy Pepin. About 15 percent of operations will be above 400,000 SCC at certain times of the year.


University of Minnesota dairy nutrition specialist Noah Litherland discussed calf research at the U of M's dairy operation.

There are 115 cows on campus, he said. As part of the operation, researchers are looking at ways to minimize costs in their calf feeding program.

Four critical transitions occur for calves, Litherland said. There is intro-uterine programming. It is known that what a human mom eats while pregnant can have an affect on her unborn child. The same is somewhat true for cattle and is closely tied with cholostrum sythesis.

Another state is early estrauterine life, when colostrum intake is important. A third state is the pre-ruminate state and, next, rumen development and weaning.

Not a lot is known about the nutrient requirements as calves go into weaning, he said. That includes rumen development and knowing what is digestible for those calves.

While producers do a good job with dry cows, not much is done about calf rumen development and weaning.

Before using a feed additive or an automatic calf feeder, consider the nutrient requirements for growing calves, cleanliness and consistency, starter intake, colostrum and water.

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