Buckeye Dairy News: Volume 18, Issue 3

  1. Milk Prices, Costs of Nutrients, Margins and Comparison of Feedstuffs Prices

    Mr. Alex Tebbe, Graduate Research Associate, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

    The Ugly Side: Milk Prices

    In the last issue, the March Class III price closed at $13.78/cwt and the April future price was expected to be slightly lower at $13.74/cwt. The Class III price for April closed only slightly lower than expected at $13.63/cwt, giving producers a mailbox price at or around $15.40/cwt. At these Class III prices, the month of April prices were down over $2.25/cwt and almost $8/cwt since 2015 and 2014, respectively. May futures are projected to rise slightly to $13.69/cwt, and then as the kids get out of school, another big drop in milk futures price to $13.14/cwt are expected for the month of June. Overall though, the volatility of the 2016 milk market has been tame, but regardless of stability, prices are still not good.

    It may seem that with every issue of the Buckeye Dairy News I write, the price continues to plummet and no resilience in the milk market is in sight. But before you all chase me off the stage, we have to acknowledge the productivity of our cows as total milk production is up 1.2% from April 2015, and according to the NASS, milk production per cow continues to improve and is currently the highest we’ve ever seen. Simply put, efficiency is the key to success and focusing on getting that “last pound of milk” is crucial in times like this when the break even price is at or below the net revenue.   


    The Good Side: Nutrient Prices

    Once again, low feed prices are the primary reason many of our Midwest producers are able to stay afloat. We can only hope nutrient prices continue to stay low as we hit the planting season with full force.      

    As in previous issues, these feed ingredients were appraised using the software program SESAME™ developed by Dr. St-Pierre at The Ohio State University to price the important nutrients in dairy rations, to estimate break-even prices of all commodities traded in Ohio, and to identify feedstuffs that currently are significantly underpriced as of May 24, 2016. Price estimates of net energy lactation (NEL, $/Mcal), metabolizable protein (MP, $/lb; MP is the sum of the digestible microbial protein and digestible rumen-undegradable protein of a feed), non-effective NDF (ne-NDF, $/lb), and effective NDF (e-NDF, $/lb) are reported in Table 1.  For MP, its current price ($0.404/lb) has increased from March’s issue ($0.312/lb). The increase in MP is probably stimulated by South America’s bad year in soybean production, leading to a nearly $90/ton spike in both 44 and 48% soybean meals. There was also a slight bump of NEL price from last month ($0.095/lb) to $0.1043/lb this month.  The jump results in an identical price as its historical 6-year average of about 10¢/Mcal NEL.   The cost of ne-NDF has went down from last month from -6¢/lb to -13¢/lb and is still discounted by the markets (i.e., feeds with a significant content of non-effective NDF are priced at a discount). Meanwhile, unit cost of e-NDF is just over twice its 6-year average (3.3¢/lb), being priced at 7.1¢/lb. Fortunately, a dairy cow requires only 10 to 11 lb of effective NDF, so the daily cost of providing this nutrient is only about $0.75/cow/day (i.e., 10.5 lb × $0.071 per lb).

    To estimate the cost of production at these nutrient levels, I used the Cow-Jones Index with a target cow milking 70 lb/day at 3.7% fat and 3.1% protein eating 50 lb/day. In this model, the average income over nutrient costs (IONC) should be around $4.63/cow/day or $6.61/cwt.  The same cow producing 85 lb/day will increase average IONC to $5.98/cow/day and the income per cwt to $7.04/cwt. In the last issue, the income was on average $1.25/cwt more at $8.29/cwt and $7.95/cwt for the 70 and 85 lb/day cow, respectively. I must note, however, these costs neither include the costs of feeding the dry cows nor the replacement herd. Overall, the dairy industry is not very profitable as of now.  

    Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms,
    May 24, 2016.
    Table 1

    Economic Value of Feeds

    Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on May 24, 2016 are presented in Table 2. Detailed results for all 27 feed commodities are reported. The lower and upper limits mark the 75% confidence range for the predicted (break-even) prices. Feeds in the “Appraisal Set” were those for which we didn’t have a price. One must remember that Sesame compares all commodities at one point in time, mid May in this case. Thus, the results do not imply that the bargain feeds are cheap on a historical basis.

    Table 2. Actual, breakeven (predicted) and 75% confidence limits of 27 feed commodities used on Ohio dairy farms, May 24, 2016.
    Table 2
    For convenience, Table 3 summarizes the economic classification of feeds according to their outcome in the Sesame analysis. Feedstuffs that have gone up in price, or in other words moved a column to the right since the last issue, are red. Conversely, feedstuffs that have moved to the left (i.e., decreased in price) are green.

    Table 3. Partitioning of feedstuffs, Ohio, May 24, 2016.


    At Breakeven


    Bakery byproducts

    Alfalfa hay – 40% NDF

    Beet pulp

    Corn, ground, dry

    Gluten meal

    Blood meal

    Corn silage


    Brewers grains, wet

    41% Cottonseed meal

    Whole cottonseed

    Canola meal

    Distillers dried grains


    Citrus pulp

    Feather meal


    Fish meal

    Gluten feed



    Meat meal


    Soybean hulls

    Soybean meal - expeller


    44% Soybean meal

    Wheat middlings


    48% Soybean meal






    Wheat bran

    As coined by Dr. St-Pierre, I must remind the readers that these results do not mean that you can formulate a balanced diet using only feeds in the “bargains” column. Feeds in the “bargains” column offer savings opportunity and their usage should be maximized within the limits of a properly balanced diet. In addition, prices within a commodity type can vary considerably 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. Also, there are reasons that a feed might be a very good fit in your feeding program while not appearing in the “bargains” column. For example, your nutritionist might be using some molasses in your rations for reasons other than its NEL and MP contents.


    For those of you who use the 5-nutrient group values (i.e., replace metabolizable protein by rumen degradable protein and digestible rumen undegradable protein), see the table below.

    Table 4. Prices of dairy nutrients using the 5-nutrient solution for
    Ohio dairy farms, May 24, 2016.
    Table 4


  2. Botulism Prevention with Small Grain Baleage

    Mr. Rory Lewandowski, Extension Agriculture Educator, Wayne County, The Ohio State University Extension

    Recently, I had a question from a dairy farmer concerning possible botulism in some small grain baleage. Bacteria in the clostridial family are responsible for producing the dangerous toxin that causes botulism. These clostridial bacteria are found everywhere in the soil and are common on plant material during harvest.  Clostridial bacteria are active when forage moisture is high, above 65% moisture. The other condition that serves as a warning signal for the potential production of the botulism toxin is an anaerobic (no air) condition combined with poor fermentation. Poor fermentation is usually indicated by a forage pH of greater than 4.5. Clostridial bacteria will not grow if the pH is below 4.5.

    Over the past several years, the practice of planting cereal rye as a winter cover crop and then harvesting that cereal rye as an early spring forage crop has become more common. Another practice where a small grain is routinely used as forage is to plant oats as a nurse crop with a new alfalfa seeding. The oats is then harvested early, typically at late boot to early heading stage of maturity. In either situation, the small grain crop is generally chopped and put into a silo as silage or is cut and baled at a high moisture content and wrapped with plastic as baleage. Both of these harvest methods depend upon fermentation to produce a safe, quality forage.

    Good forage fermentation depends upon lactic acid production to reduce pH to 4.5 or lower, ensiling or wrapping at the proper moisture content, and the exclusion of air. Forage pH is a primary indicator of quality and botulism risk in cereal grain baleage. Clostridial bacteria can grow at a pH of 5 or higher. Be very cautious of feeding small grain baleage with a pH of 5.5 or higher. If the baleage has a putrid or ammonia smell to it, this should serve as another warning sign for potential botulism. Producers may wish to test the pH of any baleage which is suspect. Electronic hand-held pH meters can be purchased from most any agricultural supply catalog store, such as Nasco or Gemplers. 

    Water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) provide the sugars needed for the lactic acid-producing bacteria to lower the pH. Cereal forages, such as rye, wheat, and oats, have lower WSC contents than corn or sorghum species, so management practices become very important. Chopping forage helps to bring the WSC located inside plant cells into contact with lactic acid producing bacteria which are on the outside of the plant. The lack of chopping in baleage production is an obstacle to optimum fermentation. Another consideration is weather. WSC content can decline once the forage has been cut, begun to dry down, and then is rained on. As WSC content declines, it becomes more of a challenge to get a low forage pH during the fermentation process.  

    Rye, wheat, or oat baleage must be made at the correct moisture percentage to obtain good fermentation and avoid potential problems with clostridial bacteria. Ideally, baleage should be made when the forage is at 40 to 60% moisture. Strive for a 50% moisture average on bales. As mentioned earlier, clostridial bacteria that produce the botulism toxin like wet conditions. Small grain baleage at greater than 65% moisture increases the risk for botulism toxin production. Also, the risk for bolulism in baleage increases with increased soil contamination and baling of dead animals within the forage.

    Excluding air and getting a dense, tightly packed bale is another important step to get good forage fermentation and to produce a safe, quality baleage product.  As rye, wheat, and oats mature, this becomes more difficult because fiber content increases and the plants are not as pliable. Bales should be wrapped as quickly as possible. A good goal is to wrap within 2 hours of baling, but certainly no later than 8 to 10 hours after baling. There is quite a lot of research that indicates a minimum of four layers of 1 mil plastic is needed to get a good seal on the bale, and the plastic should be UV resistant. If bales are going to be stored for long term (greater than 6 months), applying six layers of plastic is recommended. Inspect bales on a regular basis and patch any holes in the plastic with tape made specifically for plastic.

  3. How the Weather and Feed Shrink Affect Your Bottom Line

    Mr. Jason Hartschuh, Crawford County Extension Educator, The Ohio State University Extension

    When we think about minimizing feed shrink, we typically focus on forage shrink and forget how quickly concentrate shrink expenses can add up when a dusting is lost here and there. Shrink comes in many forms; field losses, storage, heating, wind, rain, rodents, birds, wet tires, and mixing errors. Concentrate commodities shrink in many ways from the time they arrive at the farm until they are eaten by your cows.

    The cost of shrink on your farm can add up quickly. Utilizing the typical shrink values on the average farm feeding a silage-based ration, feed cost will increase by about $0.60/cow/day. If these losses could be decreased by 50%, it could save a farm $100 per cow per year. To realize these savings and reach the goal of a 50% reduction in shrink, it helps to identify shrink of individual ingredients. With just an 8% shrink loss of a $400/ton concentrate that is fed at a rate of 6 lb/cow/day, the losses will be almost $0.10/cow/day (Harner et al., 2011).
    How a commodity is delivered and stored and how much wind is blowing each day affect the amount of shrink you may experience. Dry meals that are housed in 3 sided commodity bays have a typical loss of 3 to 8%, while storage in a feed bin has losses of only 2 to 4%. If your losses are at the upper end of these ranges, or unknown, there are a few areas you can investigate. Wind can be a substantial source of shrink with concentrates in either system. When winds are blowing at 10 mph, there is an 8% increase in losses versus 5 mph. At 15 mph, the losses increase by 27%. While winds over 15 mph are not the consistent norm, we often have wind speeds around 10 mph. In order to manage these losses, a few strategies can be implemented. For loading out of a commodity barn, decreasing the distance from the barn to the mixer wagon and providing a wind break at the loading pad can be beneficial. Even with feed bins, some wind shrink may be present as the feed falls from an auger into the mixer. Using drop tubes to get the feed down into the mixer or having your bins set up to load the mixer through a central building that blocks the wind can minimize these losses.

    Commodity barns also have a few other sources of losses that should be considered and managed. Two sources of shrink are losses during unloading and moving commodities into bays and rain that enters these bays during storms and causes feed to rot. Many of our commodity bays are tall enough to dump directly into, minimizing losses that occur when feed is dumped outside the bay and pushed in with a loader. Unloading losses are also greater with belt trailers and walking floors than with dump trailers. The tall building to accommodate dump trailers can lead to increased losses from moisture blowing into the shed. Some of this is managed by orientation of the building. Adding a curtain to the barn to close the open portion up some when feed is not being delivered can also be very beneficial. When a barn with a 20 ft opening is closed to a 12 foot opening, the moisture entering the barn is reduced by 40%. If you could close it down to 8 feet, the reduction in moisture entering the building is 60%. The moisture that enters can lead to spoilage and wetter commodities. The wetter feeds throw off the accuracy of your ration when it is delivered to the cows.

    The other major shrink error for some producers is scale inaccuracies. Most mixer scales are only precise to plus or minus 10 lb, even if they count by fives. The accuracy error is typically about 1%, but varies a lot between mixers on different farms. An article in Hoard’s Dairyman last fall stated that in a study looking at mixer scales on 22 farms, only half of them worked properly. The challenges for the 50% improperly working mixers came from multiple sources. One error came from lack of calibration when a new scale head was installed on a set of load cells, which caused a consistent error percentage to all ingredients. This came from a partial fix of another common problem, which was worn out weigh bars and scale displays. Another error was binding within the load cells’ mounting system; the binding in these mounts can result from several causes, including rust and caked mud and dirt around them. The error caused by the binding varied by ingredient, being worse early in the mixing and more accurate the fuller the mixer, throwing off the delivered ration more than the uncalibrated scale head errors.

    To diagnose an error in your scale system, two options can be used to test your TMR mixer scales. One would be to run across a calibrated truck scale after each ingredient is added for a couple batches of feed. Another would be to find someone with a set of truck pad scales and run each axle of the tractor and mixer over the pads after each ingredient is added. The scale pads need to be set up on a concrete pad with a less than 1% slope for maximum accuracy. You may be able to find a set of truck pad scales by talking to your local feed mill or someone who sells seed and does test plots. With either method, you should weigh multiple batches to get the most accurate comparison for diagnosing any problems.    

    Brouk, M. J., and J. P. Harner, III. 2016. Designing Feeding Facilities to Maintain Feed Quality. Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference April 18-20. Pgs. 149-58.      

    Harner, J.P., J.F. Smith, M.J. Brouk, and B.J. Bradford. 2011. Feed Center Design. Western Dairy Management Conference. Reno, NV. March 9-11. Pgs 91-102.

    Rasmussen, J., and E. Templeton. 2015. “Are Your Scales On Target?” Hoard’s Dairyman November 2015. Pg. 738.

  4. Stress Management During Tough Financial Times

    Mr. Rory Lewandowski, Extension Agriculture Educator, Wayne County, The Ohio State University Extension

    There is no doubt that the production agriculture sector is going through a tough financial period. In particular, low crop prices and low milk prices are severely impacting row crop and dairy producers. Financial stress in the farm business often equates to stress within the farm family and can extend to farm employees.  Harmful stress needs to be recognized and managed for personal health, family health, and health of the farm business.

    Some stress is a normal part of life. Stress can motivate us to get things done or to make adjustments in our life that balance the stress or maybe remove the stress. However when stress events begin to add up or stressful events are added that don’t allow us to adjust or that are beyond our resources to adjust, then stress begins to be harmful. Symptoms of harmful stress, as well as mechanisms and the ability to cope with stress, will vary depending upon the individual. It is important to recognize some common symptoms of stress, and if these symptoms continue for prolonged periods of time to devise a plan to manage stress. Some common symptoms of stress include: feeling tired all the time, inability to relax, disrupted sleep pattern, irritability, anger, problems getting along with people, anxiousness, feelings of being overwhelmed, emotional outbursts, trouble concentrating, headaches, frequent illness, increased alcohol or tobacco use, and withdrawal.

    Developing and maintaining avenues of communication can help farm families cope with stress during tough financial times. Communication is vital to help relieve the burdens of financial stress and to help generate ideas for problem solving, how to cut production costs, and/or how to increase efficiency or productivity. Regular communication during stressful financial times can help to reduce a negative environment and to prevent finger pointing and blaming. It is natural to look for a source to blame, but in the current farm economy, low prices are not the fault of any farm manager, family member, or farm employee. In addition, it is known that often just being able to talk about financial problems or feelings of frustration, helplessness, and anxiety can be helpful to mental and emotional health.

    In a family farm situation, it may take an extra effort to maintain communication during stressful financial times. Try to put some “structures” in place that will help facilitate regular communication. An example of this is regularly scheduled family or farm business meetings. Meetings should have planned agenda items and a set starting and ending time. Some ground rules should be in place that provide opportunity for everyone to speak and that prevent any kind of personal attacks or blaming. The focus should be on the farm business. One of the topics on the agenda might be an update of the current farm financial situation. This update allows all family members and farm employees to understand the current farm situation, can squash any rumors that may have started, and can help family members and farm employees understand why repairs instead of new purchases are being made, why withdrawals for family living are being maintained or decreased, and why employee pay raises may be delayed or decreased. Sharing financial information within this type of business meeting structure can empower family members, employees to feel valued as a team member, and new ideas about how to meet financial challenges may be generated.

    Communication is vital during times of financial stress, and in addition to communicating with family members and farm employees, the farm owner or manager should have a support network that understands the farm’s financial situation. Someone who can look at the farm situation from a non-personal perspective and that is not as emotionally invested in the farm operation can provide some clearer thinking and/or information that can be helpful in making decisions. People in this support network also may provide a sympathetic ear that allows some of the financial stress burden to be shared. These are people that want to see your farm succeed and be passed on to the next generation. This support network can include your lender, equipment dealer, seed/fertilizer dealer, financial advisor, nutritionist, veterinarian, Extension educator, tax preparer, or other trusted advisors.

    For more information about communication during stressful financial times, go to the Dairy Issue Briefs section of the OSU Extension dairy web site at: https://dairy.osu.edu/DIBS/dibs.html.

  5. Update on 2016 Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference

    Dr. Maurice Eastridge, Extension Dairy Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

    The 2016 Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference that was held April 18-20 in Ft. Wayne, IN was very successful with a record attendance of 550 and also a record number of 73 exhibitors. The pre-conference workshop on animal monitoring technology was well attended, and there were 10 undergraduates, 4 MS students, and 12 PhD students that competed in student presentations (see winners pictured below). The pre-conference symposium sponsored by Pioneer was an excellent program and was well attended. The new Hot Topics breakfast hosted by Micronutrients and the post-conference program hosted by Balchem provided attendees with additional valuable information about dairy cattle nutrition. The celebration of the 25th year anniversary included facility decorations, providing attendees a memorable milk bottle, and anniversary cake and ice cream at the hospitality time on Tuesday evening. The 2017 Conference to be held April 17-19 and DiamondV will be the sponsor for the pre-conference symposium on April 18. A pre-conference workshop on feed analytical testing is being organized by several commercial analytical laboratories. Mark your calendars for plans to attend an excellent program and make sure you bookmark the Conference’s new web address: tristatedairy.org.

    Undergraduate Student Award Winners: Dr. Joanne Knapp, Fox Hollow Consulting (Co-Chair, Student Program);
    Rachel Nelson, The Ohio State University (3rd place, Original Research); Danielle Andreen, Michigan State University
    (2nd place, Original Research); Jordan Guy, Michigan State University (1st place, Original Research); Joshua Bukoski,
    Michigan State University (1st place, Literature Review); Doug Liebe, The Ohio State University (2nd Place, Literature
    Review), and Amanda Hanes, Michigan State University (3rd place, Literature Review). 

    MS Winners
    MS Graduate Student Award Winners: Dr. Joanne Knapp, Fox Hollow Consulting (Co-Chair, Student
    Program); Martin Mangual, Michigan State University (1st  place); Bekah Meller, The Ohio State University
    (2nd place, not pictured); and Ethan Carder, The Ohio State University (3rd place). 

    PhD Winners
    PhD Graduate Student Award Winners: Dr. Joanne Knapp, Fox Hollow Consulting (Co-Chair, Student Program);
    Benjamin Wenner, The Ohio State University (1st  place); Sarah Schmidt, Michigan State University (2nd place); and
    Matt Faulkner, The Ohio State University (3rd place). 

  6. Update on Dairy Youth Programs

    Pictured: (left to right in back) Richard Owens, Eileen Gress, and Dr. Roger Rennekamp; (left to right in front) Deb Owens, Bonnie Ayars, and Julie Martig

    Ms. Bonnie Ayars, Dairy Program Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

    In the midst of these times in the industry, youth programs are a testimonial to our future and the commitment of the adults who give much of their time.  Recently, the Dairy Palooza planning committee was honored to receive the “Innovator Award” presented at the Bob Evans Farms 4-H Volunteer Recognition Conference Luncheon.  This happened in late March and once again both Dairy Palooza Northeast and West grew in numbers.  Northeast was held on April 30 at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds, and West was located again at Auglaize County Fairgrounds.  We specialize in hands-on training for Quality Assurance, as well as a series of workshops offered by faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, industry leaders, and elementary school teachers for Cloverbuds programs.  If you have not visited our webpage, please do so at www.ohiodairypalooza.com.  This program takes place because of Ohio 4-H grants, loyal sponsors, and dedicated volunteers.

    New at the Ohio State Fair (OSF) is the Dairy Incentive Premium (see attachment). Remember to meet the deadline for OSF Dairy entries by June 20th.

    Congratulations to the Ohio 4-H Achievement winners who will be recognized at the Annual  4-H Achievement Awards dinner.  The Dairy Achievement award will be presented to Julie Gress of Wayne County and Kate Mc Govern (Ashland County) and Virginia Schappacher (Fayette County) will attend the National 4-H Dairy Conference to be held this fall during World Dairy Expo


  7. Small Grains Field Day

    Mr. Rory Lewandowski, Extension Agriculture Educator, Wayne County, The Ohio State University Extension

    The OARDC Schaffter Farm located at 3240 Oil City Rd., Wooster, will be the host location for a Small Grains Field Day scheduled for Tuesday, June 14. The day begins with registration and sign-in at 9:30 am and the program starts at 10:00 am. The day will conclude around 3:00 pm.  In addition to looking at how small grains are used as a grain crop, the field day will also provide information and demonstrations about small grains as cover crops, alternative forages, and how they fit into row cropping systems. Presenters include OARDC researchers, personnel from the Agriculture Research Service Wheat Quality Lab, OSU Extension specialists, and OSU Extension educators.  Private pesticide applicator and Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) credits will be offered to field day participants. Topics that will be covered at the Small Grains Field Day include:

    • Malting Barley: Opportunities and Possibilities for Ohio
    • Small Grains as Cover Crops and Alternative Forages
    • Small Grain Crimping and Soybean Seeding Demonstration
    • Modified Relay Intercropping of Soybeans into Wheat Demonstration
    • Wheat Production Agronomics
    • Wheat and Barley Disease Identification and Management
    • Wheat Breeding and Evaluation Update

    Pre-registration is requested. The cost is $25/person if registered by June 3. Late registration after June 3 is $35/person. Registration includes handout materials, lunch, and refreshments. Registration forms and checks (made payable to “Ohio State University Extension”) should be sent to the Wayne County Extension office at 428 West Liberty Street, Wooster OH 44691. An informational flyer and field day registration form is available on-line at: http://go.osu.edu/smallgrainsfieldday