Reviewing Nutrient Costs: 2009 vs. 2008 vs. 2007 Harvest Years

Dr. Joanne Knapp, Principal Technical Consultant, Fox Hollow Consulting, Columbus, OH (top of page) pdf file

The cost of providing NEl Net Energy of Lactation) in dairy rations this harvest year is closely paralleling the 2008-2009 crop year and is substantially down from the 2007-2008 crop year (Figure 1).  In contrast, the cost of providing MP (Metabolizable Protein) is averaging higher than in the 2008-2009 crop year and twice that of the 2007-2008 crop year (Figure 2).  Much of this cost is due to the price of feedstuffs that supply “bypass” or rumen undegradable protein, including the animal proteins (blood meal, hydrolyzed feather meal, and meat and bone meal), corn gluten meal, and whole cottonseed.  Given the decreases in the livestock and poultry industries in terms of placement and slaughter numbers, the supply of the animal proteins will likely continue to be limited relative to demand and prices will stay up.  However, don’t take these as golden predictions; I’m neither an economist, nor do I have a magic crystal ball!


Fig 1 and 2

For a cow producing 75 lb milk with 3.7% milkfat and 3.0% true protein, the NEl and MP costs are predicted to currently be $2.30 and $2.64/head/day, respectively. The MP is now the most expensive nutrient in a dairy ration.  To obtain the most value out of the MP fed to your dairy cows, you should work closely with your nutritionist and feed company representative to ensure that the feeds used to provide rumen undegradable protein are high quality (highly digestible and consistent in nutrient content) and that rumen function and microbial growth are optimized.  Balancing for amino acids will also allow the cows to use the MP more efficiently.

The cost of the key nutrients was estimated using Sesame III software, and break-even prices of commodities and forages used in dairy rations were predicted (Table 1).  The NEl is estimated at 6.6¢, a small decrease from December’s value.  The MP at 50.7¢/lb is down from December, but is still high.  Non-effective neutral detergent fiber (neNDF) and effective NDF (eNDF) are relatively unchanged at –8.7 and 5.5¢/lb, respectively.  It is common for neNDF to be negative, as feeds that have high levels of this nutrient such as by-products like distillers’ grains, corn gluten feed, etc. are discounted in the market relative to other feeds.  Good- to high-quality, home-grown forages continue to be an excellent and inexpensive source of effective NDF.  Overall, we have not seen as many changes in feed prices post-harvest as we would in most years.

Based on mid December wholesale prices for central Ohio, feed commodities fall into three groups:


At Breakeven


Corn grain, ground
Corn silage
Cottonseed meal, 41% CP
Distillers’ grains w/sol
Expeller soybean meal
Feather meal
Gluten feed
Meat and bone meal
Soybean meal, 48% CP
Wheat midds

Alfalfa hay, 44%NDF 20%CP
Brewers' grains, wet
Cottonseed, whole
Soybeans, whole

Bakery byproduct
Blood meal
Canola meal
Fish meal
Gluten meal
Soybean meal, 44% CP
Wheat bran

The usual caveats with Sesame III™ results apply. You cannot formulate a balanced diet using only the feeds in the Bargains column.  These feeds represent savings opportunities and can be utilized in rations to reduce feed costs within limitations for providing a balanced nutrient supply to the dairy cow.  Prices for commodities can vary because of quality differences as well as non-nutritional value added by some suppliers in the form of nutritional services, blending, terms of credit, etc.  Feeds may also bring value to a ration in addition to their nutrient value, e.g. tallow as a “carrier” and dust suppressant in vitamin/mineral pre-mixes and molasses as a source of sugars. 

The detailed results of the Sesame III™ analysis are given in Table 1.  The lower and upper limits give the 75% confidence range for the predicted Break-Even prices.  Feeds in the “Appraisal Set” are either those that were completely out of price range (outliers) or had unknown prices, such as the alfalfa hays of different nutritional quality.   

Table 1.  Prices of dairy nutrients, and actual wholesale, breakeven (predicted) and 75%
confidence limits for feed commodities used on Ohio dairy farms.

Table 1