Buckeye Dairy News: VOLUME 20, ISSUE 2

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

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

    Milk Prices: Have we hit rock bottom?

    Starting off 2018, milk prices have been nothing short of disappointing. As I write, the Class III component price for January closed at $14.00/cwt and then took another drop in February to $13.44/cwt. The March Class III futures price is slightly lower at $13.36/cwt, but is projected to jump up to $14.10/cwt in April.

    Fortunately, this jump back above $14/cwt may be the start of a steady rise in prices. Current demand for milk solids have been on the rise in Asian countries, namely China. Colder temperatures world-wide have also contributed to the projected bump in price as world-wide milk production has been relatively stagnant. Looking at Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) futures, they are currently trading at $14.50/cwt but are projected to push the $16/cwt mark come late summer or fall. The increase in price would be faster; however, cold stores of cheese and butter are 4 to 5% greater than one year ago and are backing the recent surge in demand.

    Nutrient Prices: Oilseeds are overpriced

    Although exports of milk solids have been increasing at a fast pace, exports of oilseeds have also been on the rise. Since the last issue, soybean and canola meals have both increased nearly 15 and 12%, respectively. This is a large jump that may or may not be temporary. In South America, harvest is just over half way from completion, which would suggest the price should begin to come back down. However, parts of South America have also suffered adverse weather throughout the growing season, and the harvest may not be as bountiful as expected. The futures price for soybeans and canola is also fairly stable for the next couple of months. In short, the bump in price may be here to stay, but this will largely depend on weather conditions for the upcoming U.S. growing season.

    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 many commodities traded in Ohio and to identify feedstuffs that currently are underpriced as of March 26, 2018. 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 value ($0.50/lb) is higher than January’s issue ($0.43/lb). The cost of NEL is nearly identical to January (7.7¢/Mcal) and is lower than the 5-year average of 11¢/Mcal. The price of e-NDF decreased from 7¢ to 3¢/lb, whereas ne-NDF is relatively unchanged from January at -8¢/lb (i.e., feeds with a significant content of non-effective NDF are priced at a discount), respectively.

    To estimate the cost of production at these nutrient prices, I used the Cow-Jones Index for cows milking 70 lb/day or 85 lb/day at 3.7% fat and 3.1% protein. In the January issue, the average income over nutrient costs (IONC) was estimated to be $9.23/cwt for cows milking 70 lb/day and $9.62/cwt for cows milking 85 lb/day. For March, the IONC for our 70 lb/day and 85 lb/day cows are about $2/cwt lower than November at $7.26/cwt and $7.61/cwt, respectively. These IONC may be overestimated because they do not account for the cost of replacements or dry cows.

    In summary, these IONC prices are not very good, and dairy producers will need to cut cost whereever possible for the next couple of months to find a profit margin (if there is one).

    Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms, March 26, 2018.

    Economic Value of Feeds

    Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on March 26, 2018 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 or were adjusted to reflect their true (“Corrected”) value in a lactating diet. One must remember that SESAME™ compares all commodities at one specific point in time. 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, March 26, 2018.

    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. These shifts (i.e., feeds moving columns to the left or right) in price are only temporary changes relative to other feedstuffs within the last two months and do not reflect historical prices.

    Table 3. Partitioning of feedstuffs, Ohio, March 26, 2018.


    At Breakeven


    Bakery Byproducts

    Blood meal

    Alfalfa hay – 40% NDF

    Corn, ground, dry

    Gluten meal

    Beet pulp

    Corn silage

    Soybean hulls

    Mechanically extracted canola meal

    Distillers dried grains

    48% Soybean meal

    Citrus pulp

    Feather meal

    Wheat bran

    41% Cottonseed meal

    Gluten feed

    Whole cottonseed

    Fish meal




    Meat meal


    Solvent extracted canola meal

    Soybean meal - expeller


    44% Soybean meal

    Wheat middlings





    Whole, roasted soybeans

    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 a 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 content.


    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, March 26, 2018.

  2. Establishing Alfalfa

    Jeff Stachler, Extension Educator, Auglaize County, The Ohio State University

    There were a few fields of alfalfa lost last year due to excessive rains but not like in 2015.  We are approaching a good time period to establish alfalfa seedings.  Have you thought about what needs to be done to successfully establish alfalfa?

    The first task is to obtain a soil sample or samples.  If the field is less than 15 acres, then a single soil sample will suffice.  If the field is larger than 15 acres, take multiple samples based upon management zones or based upon a grid pattern.  It is best to start sampling by a grid method before going to a zone method, so you can more accurately vary the rate of fertilizer and/or lime.  Management zones can be based upon soil type, topography, soil organic matter, or a combination of these.  If a field has been in no-till and the field will remain untilled, obtain soil samples at two depths, one at a 4” depth for pH and another at an 8” depth for fertilizer recommendations.

    For good establishment of alfalfa, soil pH needs to be 6.8 for mineral soils having subsoil pH less than 6.0 and 6.5 for mineral soils having subsoil pH greater than 6.0.  Bray P1 soil test phosphorus (P) levels should be between 25 and 50 parts per million (ppm).  The Mehlich III soil test P levels should be between 40 and 79 ppm.

     The recommended rate of potash is based upon the soil test level in ppm, the cation exchange capacity, and yield goal.  If lime is required and the Bray P1 soil test value for phosphorus is below 25 ppm, delay planting until the fall or next spring as stand establishment will likely be poor due to the poor fertility.  Fertilizer and lime should be incorporated to maximize nutrient efficiency.  If you are surface applying lime and fertilizer, it is even more important to wait a year before establishing alfalfa. 

    Select varieties having the best disease resistance (the best way to fight diseases), good forage quality, best fit to soil types, and high yields.  Have seed inoculated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to improve nitrogen uptake and treated with fungicides to manage seedling diseases, especially when planting in the spring. 

    Prepare a proper seedbed.  A smooth firm seedbed allows for good soil to seed contact, leading to improved establishment.  Control all weeds prior to establishment.  Control perennial weeds the year before establishment.  For no-tillage seedings, control grass sod with glyphosate at least one month in advance of seeding and manage previous crop residue for good soil to seed contact.

    Seed alfalfa as early in the spring as possible.  For southern Ohio target March 15th and for northern Ohio target April 1st.  For fall seedings, plant as close to August 1st as possible.

    Seed alfalfa to a depth of ¼ to ½ inch in clay and loam soils and ½ to ¾ inch in sandy soils.

    The seeding rate for alfalfa is 15 lb per acre or 80 seeds per foot of row.  If the seedbed is in excellent condition and you are using a brillion packer seeder or something similar to it, the seeding rate can be reduced by 25 to 30%.

    It is critical to properly manage leafhoppers in seedling alfalfa to keep it healthy. Successful establishment ensures the healthiest, longest lasting, and highest yielding alfalfa.

  3. Milk Production of Ohio Dairy Herds

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

    It is always important to monitor the yield of milk and the composition of milk, especially for the individual farmer, because the income of the dairy farm depends on this source of revenue. The yields of fat and protein are the primary determinants of the price received by farmers. The proportions of fat and protein are useful in monitoring cow health and feeding practices within a farm. The income over feed costs (IOFC) and feed costs per hundred of milk are important monitors of costs of milk production.

    The average production of milk, fat, and protein by breed for Ohio dairy herds in 2016 and 2017 using the Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI; http://www.dhiohio.com) program are provided in Table 1. Not all herds on DHI are included in the table below because of the different testing options offered by DHI, some herds opt for no release of records, lack of sufficient number of test dates, and given that some of the herds consist of other breeds than the ones shown. In comparison, the average of milk yield for all cows (263,000) in Ohio for 2017 was 21,259 lb.

    Table 1. Number of herds, milk yield, milk fat, and milk protein by breed for Ohio herds on DHI during 2016 and 2017.


    Number of Herds

    Milk (lb/lactation)

    Milk fat (%)

    Milk protein (%)



















    Brown Swiss













































  4. Buckeyes Participate in the Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge

    Maurice L. Eastridge, Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

    The annual Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge was hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was held in Madison during February 7-9. Alexandra Houck, Hannah Jarvis, Jaclyn Krymowski, Hannah Meller, Kate Sherman, Marina Sweet, and Morgan Westover participated in the event. The teams that Alexandra Houck and Hannah Meller were on placed first for their farm, and Kate Sherman’s team placed second for their respective farm. There were 110 students from 20 universities and technology schools that participated in the Midwest Dairy Challenge. Alexandra Houck, Jaclyn Krymowski, Hannah Meller, and Marina Sweet will represent Ohio State University at the National Contest to be held in Visalia, CA during April 5-7, 2018.


    Students participating in the Midwest Dairy Challenge (left to right): Alexandra Houck, Hannah Meller, Marina Sweet, Jaclyn Krymowski, Kate Sherman, Hannah Jarvis, and Morgan Westover.