Buckeye Dairy News: VOLUME 21, ISSUE 3

  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

    In the last issue, the Class III futures for March and April were at $13.78 and $15.09/cwt, respectively. The Class III component prices for the month of March and April closed about $1/cwt higher than predicted at $15.04 and $15.96/cwt, respectively. The class III future for May is similar to April’s component price at $15.76/cwt followed by a jump to $16.44/cwt in June. Overall, it appears that milk prices are on the rise.

    Nutrient prices

    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 significantly underpriced as of May 23, 2019. 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.  

    When looking at the appraised nutrient prices, the price of protein has gone down and NEL has gone up. For MP, its current value is down nearly $0.15/lb (March: $0.45/lb), whereas the cost of NEL has gone up 3¢/Mcal (March: 6.3¢/Mcal). The price of e-NDF and ne-NDF are nearly identical to last month.

    To estimate the cost of production at these nutrient prices, the Cow-Jones Index was used for average US cows weighing 1500 lb and producing milk with 3.7% fat and 3.1% protein. For this issue, the income over nutrient cost (IONC) for cows milking 70 lb/day and 85 lb/day is about $9.97/cwt and $10.38/cwt, respectively. These IONC are $1.70/cwt greater than what I estimated in March ($8.23 and $8.60/cwt, respectively). The current IONC also suggest Ohio dairy farmers may actually be making a profit for a change. Granted, these IONC may be partially overestimated because they do not account for the cost of replacements or dry cows.

    Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms, May 23, 2019.

    Economic Value of Feeds

    Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on May 23, 2019 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, May 23, 2019.

    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 in Ohio, May 23, 2019.

    Bargains At Breakeven Overpriced
    Bakery byproducts Gluten meal Alfalfa hay - 40% NDF
    Corn, ground, dry Soybean hulls Beet pulp
    Corn silage 48% Soybean meal Blood meal
    Distillers dried grains Soybean meal - expeller Mechanically extracted canola meal
    Feather meal Whole cottonseed Citrus pulp
    Gluten feed Wheat bran 41% Cottonseed meal
    Hominy   Fish meal
    Meat meal   Molasses
    Wheat middlings   Solvent extracted canola meal
        44% Soybean meal
        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 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 Table 4.

    Table 4. Prices of dairy nutrients using the 5-nutrient solution for Ohio dairy farms, May 23, 2019.

  2. Living with Lower Quality and Limited Amounts of Forage

    Dr. Bill Weiss, Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

    The numerous freeze-thaw cycles and wet ground last winter were very hard on alfalfa stands, resulting in substantial winter kill. Numerous stands across the State were completely destroyed. Other stands may have suffered less damage, but first cutting yields will likely be substantially lower than normal. In addition to first cutting yield loss, nutritional quality may also be lower than normal because of increased proportion of grass and other weeds in the stands. To make matters worse, many producers rely on rye or small grains to provide late spring and early summer forages. The wet spring delayed harvest on many farms, turning what usually is a good quality forage into lower quality ‘heifer feed’. This double whammy will put significant pressure on forage inventories and especially high quality forage supplies. Although less than ideal, several options exist that will stretch forage inventory and allow inclusion of lower quality forages without substantial negative effects on milk yield.

    1. Estimate inventory of corn silage and determine if you can increase the feeding rate without running out before the new crop is harvested. If increased feeding rate of corn silage is an option, increase inclusion of corn silage and reduce concentrations of other lower quality forages. The concentration of forage NDF should be kept around 20% of dietary dry matter (DM). Diets will likely need more supplemental protein because alfalfa and rye have more protein than corn silage. Cows may also benefit from increased supplementation of potassium and/or sodium buffers. High corn silage diets are usually low in Dietary Cation-Anion Difference (DCAD) which can reduce milk fat yields.
    2. Include lower quality forages but keep forage NDF concentration at <20% of dietary DM. At lower inclusion rates, the negative effect of lower quality forage on feed intake is reduced. Keeping forage NDF at 19 to 20% of dietary DM reduces (but does not eliminate) the negative effect of low quality forage on intake. Because the more mature forages have more NDF, the percentage of forage in the diet will decrease which may raise concerns about reduced milk fat yields. However, the amount of forage fiber, not total fiber, is what is important with respect to milk fat. Reducing the amount of forage in the diet means that inclusion rates of other feeds must increase. Be careful about replacing forage with corn grain; maintain diet starch concentrations around 25% as forage is reduced. Byproducts, such as wheat midds, soyhulls, brewers, or distiller grains, can replace some of the forage if excess starch is an issue.
    3. Based on cow responses, whole cottonseed can replace normal forage almost on a pound for pound basis. Whole cottonseed has about 40% NDF (similar to average alfalfa) which means replacing 8 lb of alfalfa silage or hay dry matter with 8 lb of whole cottonseed should have little effect on the cow (protein and minerals may need to be adjusted and supplemental fat, if fed, may need to be reduced).
    4. If forage inventory is not adequate to last until the end of summer, options for growing more forage include Brown Midrib (BMR)-summer annuals or pea-small grain mixes. Pea-small grain mixes produce good quality forage, but they need to be planted soon, probably no later than mid-May. They should be harvested in about 60 days. The mix has higher nutritional value than small grains by themselves. BMR sorghum, BMR sorghum-sudan, or BMR sudangrass can be planted beginning in late May and early June when soil temperatures are at least 60 to 65oF and up to late June in northern Ohio and mid-July in central and southern Ohio. They are ready to harvest in 50 to 60 days (early August to late August). The resulting silage from BMR sorghum is almost as good as regular corn silage (although lower in starch) when fed to dairy cows. The nutritional value of BMR sudangrass or BMR sorghum-sudan have not been evaluated with dairy cows but likely is similar to that of BMR sorghum.  Fiber digestibility is very good with the BMR summer annuals and inclusion rates can be high.

    Overall, several options are available for using lower quality forages. The key is to limit forage fiber. Because lower quality forages are high in fiber, diets will contain less forage and more concentrate than typical, which will likely increase ration costs, but feeding too much low quality forage will reduce milk yields which is worse than higher feed costs.

  3. Emergency Forages for Planting Early to Mid-Summer

    Dr. Mark Sulc, Extension Forage Specialist, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science and Dr. Bill Weiss, Extension Dairy Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

    Many dairy producers are facing a critical forage shortage to feed their herds. Forage stands were damaged across Ohio this past winter, and the wet spring has further deteriorated the few stands that initially appeared they might recover from winter damage. It is now too risky to try to establish new perennial forage stands, with the warmer summer weather coming on. We should wait until August to establish perennial stands. Meanwhile, what options can we consider for growing forage this year?

    We are well past the time when cool-season species like oats, triticale, Italian ryegrass, and spring barley can be planted. As we move into late May and early June, we must switch to planting warm-season species.

    Corn silage is still the top choice for an annual forage in terms of overall greatest dry matter (DM) yield and nutritive value compared with the other summer annual options. Even if planted so late as to prevent grain formation, the feeding value of corn is at least equal to that of the other summer annual grasses, and forage yields are likely to be higher. However, corn silage won’t be an option for every situation, especially where forage supplies are already critically short.

    Sudangrass, sorghum x sudangrass hybrids, pearl millet, and forage sorghum grow rapidly in summer and yield a total of 3.5 to 5 tons of DM with acceptable nutritive value. Forage sorghum can produce up to 8 tons/acre of DM in a single cut in Ohio. For dairy cows, varieties with the brown-midrib (BMR) trait should be planted, as BMR produces forage almost as good as regular corn silage (although lower in starch) with very good fiber digestibility. Variety performance data are available at:

    Soil temperatures should be at least 60 to 65oF before planting the sorghum species. They can be planted up to late June in northern Ohio and mid-July in central and southern Ohio. For those needing additional forage as soon as possible, sudangrass and sorghum x sudangrass, including the BMR varieties, can be ready for harvest in as little as 40 days at which time up to 2 tons/acre of DM is possible. Additional cuttings are possible thereafter.

    In the fall, the sorghum species will have the danger of prussic acid poisoning potential after frost events. Pearl millet is essentially free of prussic acid poisoning potential. Nitrate toxicity is possible with all summer annual grasses and management steps should be taken to reduce that risk under high nitrogen conditions and if the summer becomes very dry. Ensiling reduces risk of both prussic acid and nitrate poisoning.

    Teff is a warm-season grass that can be used for hay, silage, or pasture. Soils should be at least 60 to 65oF before planting Teff. The first crop should be ready in 40 to 50 days. It produces 3 to 4 tons/acre of DM over several cuttings and can tolerate both drought-stressed and waterlogged soils. More details on managing this forage can be found in a factsheet from Cornell University (http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/publications/factsheets/factsheet24.pdf).

    Brassica species can be planted in May to early June for late summer grazing or fall grazing by cattle or sheep. These species contain high moisture content, so they should be used for grazing only. Brassicas have very low fiber and high energy and should be treated more like a concentrate than as forage in diets. For more information on brassicas for forage, see the Penn State factsheet at: http://www.forages.psu.edu/topics/species_variety_trials/species/brassica/index.html.

    Seeding Rates and Mixtures

    Plant high quality seed of a known variety, which will ensure high germination rate and avoid unpleasant surprises regarding varietal identity and crop characteristics. Table 1 outlines recommended seeding rates and dates for the different annual grasses. Mixtures of summer-annual grasses and legumes, such as field peas and soybeans, are marketed by some seed dealers. The legumes can increase protein content but only in the first harvest because they don’t regrow after cutting. Legumes increase the seed cost, so consider the benefit of including legumes versus supplementing with other protein sources.

    Harvesting/Grazing Options

    Chopping and ensiling or wet wrapping are the best mechanical harvest alternatives for most of the summer annual grasses. Wilting is often recommended; storage and harvest costs are greater; and fermentation quality can be poor with crops less than about 30% DM. Ideally, silage should be left undisturbed for at least two weeks to allow the forage to reach stable fermentation. If forage is needed sooner, consider daily green chopping of forage or wet wrapping individual bales for feeding until the silage is ready. Except for Teff, dry baling the summer annual grasses is a challenge. Grazing is really the only option for the brassicas because of the high moisture content.

    Table 1. Guidelines for seeding various annual forages. Ranges for yield and nutritive values are for forages stored as silage, which vary greatly with maturity stage at harvest. Generally for hay, expect lower crude protein (CP) and higher neutral detergent fiber (NDF) concentrations.

    Forage crop

    Seeding rate (lb/acre)

    Planting dates1

    Dry matter yield (ton/acre)

    CP (%)

    NDF (%)

    Corn silage

    28 - 34k2

    4/20 - 6/15

    5.0 - 9.0

    6 - 9

    38 - 50

    Forage sorghum

    8 - 12

    5/1 - 7/15

    4.5 - 8.0

    7 - 12

    50 - 66

    Sudangrass, sorghum-sudan

    20 - 25

    5/1 - 7/15

    3.5 - 5.0

    9 - 15

    55 - 68

    Pearl millet

    15 - 20

    5/1 - 7/15

    3.0 - 4.5

    8 - 17

    56 - 67


    4 - 5

    5/15 - 7/15

    2.0 - 4.0

    13 -16

    55 - 65

    1 Planting date range for Ohio. In southern Ohio, the spring dates should be in the early range, and in the fall, they can be in the later range.
    2 28,000 to 34,000 seeds per acre; seed companies provide hybrid specific planting rates.

  4. Making High Quality Baleage

    Mr. Jason Hartschuh, Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Crawford County, The Ohio State University Extension

    Spring 2019 has been challenging to say the least. Hay fields have disappeared due to winter kill and small grains matured before we could make hay. Making the forages that you have at the highest quality possible will be key. One way to maintain forage quality with small dry weather windows is to make silage or baleage instead of dry hay. The ideal conditions for baleage is to bale the hay between 40 to 65% moisture and wrap within 2 hours of baling. This process uses anaerobic conditions and the acids produced in fermentations to preserve hay. Baleage fermentation is slower than in haylage, often taking 6 weeks. When forage is baled between 25 to 40% moisture, it will not ferment properly and baleage at these moisture levels should be considered as temporary storage. During such situations, preservation is primarily a function of maintaining anaerobic, oxygen-limiting conditions. Mold is very likely at this moisture; higher bale densities and more wraps of plastic is required to better seal out oxygen. Baleage at this moisture will not maintain quality very long in storage, and thus, it needs to be fed as soon as possible. Baleage can be utilized as a plan or as a backup, but the best baleage is a plan and not a rescue.

    If you are thinking baleage might be a needed option for you, either as planned or when your dry hay window disappears, start your plan before you are calling around to find a bale wrapper. The first consideration is how fast will you be able to feed the forage? This is a major consideration when selecting the type of bale wrapper you will buy or rent. The two options are individual wrappers, which are usually ideal if feeding 50 head or less from these bales. These machines can usually wrap 20 to 30 bales per hour and use twice as much plastic as a line wrapper.  Line wrappers can wrap 40 to 50 bales per hour using less plastic, but they require uniformity between bales. When bales aren’t uniform, there is oxygen captured between bales, often leading to spoilage within the tube of bales where bales meet. They require higher feed-out rates of ideally two bales per day. With a line wrapper, the end of the next bale is exposed to oxygen when you remove one bale to feed and the spoilage clock begins.

    Determining where you will be storing bales ahead of time is very important. Making sure that the plastic is not punctured, allowing oxygen to enter and spoil the forage, due to storage site selection is critical. Ideal storage is in a well-drained location with year around access. Stone pads can work well as long as they don’t puncture the plastic. Be weary of storing on stubble, grassy areas, or under trees. These areas often attract rodents, lead to plastic damage, or have sticks that fall and puncture the plastic. Stored forage should be checked weekly for damage and holes taped as soon as they are found.

    While KEEPING OXYGEN OUT is the most important part of making high quality baleage, it starts with mowing. When baleage is the planned storage method, your harvest capacity-limiting factor will be how many bales you can wrap an hour with the ideal goal of wrapping the bales within 4 hours. Based on research done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we recommend laying swaths as wide as your mower will allow, helping preserve forage quality and speeds up drying to 65% moisture by 10.8 hours. When baling, your goal needs to be for the highest density bales that you can make. A study from Penn State shows that by increasing bale density from 6 lb/ft3 to 8lb/ft3,you gain an extra 12 hours of bunk life in the haylage due mostly to better bale fermentation. It is important to wrap bales as soon as possible after baling to avoid spoilage. The temperatures of bales that were wrapped each day from at baling to 4 days after baling are provided in Figure 1 (data from University of Wisconsin). With the temperature on day one representing the actual day of wrapping. These data show that just 24 hours after baling, the  bales that are not wrapped were over 120ºF. While wrapping bales even 4 days after baling stopped the heating process, the quality of these bales still declined.  

    Most bale wrap is one mil low-density polyethylene and bales need a minimum of 5 mils of plastic to seal out oxygen, requiring a minimum of 6 wraps. Types of plastic vary greatly in their stretchiness, which can reduce thickness by up to 25%. Some stretch is necessary so that the plastic stays sticky and seals well between the layers of plastic. Be cautious when wrapping in the rain as this will reduce the stickiness and allow more oxygen to penetrate, causing spoilage. Also, be cautious when wrapping forages that poke through the plastic which will require more layers. When oxygen enters the bale, they start to heat and quality declines when temperatures are over 120ºF.  The amount of time until bales are wrapped and the number of mils of wrap significantly effects internal bale temperature. Figure 2 shows that 6 to 12 mils of plastic maintained similar bale quality. With less wraps than this, bale spoilage is often prevalent. The general recommendations for layers of bale wrap are provided in Table 1.

    Table 1. General recommendations for layers of bale wrap.

    Moisture (%)


    Layers of plastic

    < 30%

    Possible, but not ideal for fermentation. Some mold growth likely

    8 layers minimum to ensure oxygen exclusion

    30 to 45%

    Possible, but not ideal for fermentation. Some mold growth could occur

    8 layers minimum to ensure oxygen exclusion

    45 to 60%

    Ideal for baleage production and fermentations

    Use 6 layers of 1 mil film

    60 to 70%

    Possible, but high moisture can result in spoilage and low palatability

    8 layers of wrap to ensure oxygen exclusion


    Too wet for proper fermentation, baleage production is not recommended

    Wait for the forage to dry down further before bailing

    After bales are wrapped, handle them carefully using a squeeze so that plastic is not torn. If plastic is torn in storage, the tears should be taped as soon as you notice them. For this reason, bales should be inspected weekly in storage. Never use bale spears to move wrapped haylage until the day you are going to feed it. It is recommended that bales be fed within a year of wrapping. Haylage that is to wet, over 60% moisture, should be feed within 3 months, and haylage that is below 40% will not ferment well and should be fed within 6 months. Most of the time when we make baleage as a rescue, it falls in the range of needing to be fed within 6 months. When done right, baleage can last a year and make excellent feed that often has 5% better quality than dry hay. When done wrong, haylage can spoil, mold, and grow organisms that will make your animals sick; use your eyes and nose to be sure that the forage your going to feed is of high quality. Don’t force animals to eat forage they don’t want. 


    Undersander D., “Making Baleage” UW Extension, January 2015, https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/forages/files/2015/06/Making-Baleage.pdf

    Hall M., and J. Williamson, “Bale Density Effects on Baleage Quality” Penn State Extension, May 2019, https://extension.psu.edu/bale-density-effects-on-baleage-quality  Accessed May 2019  

    Undersander D., and C. Saxe, “Field Drying Forage for Hay and Haylage” UW Extension Focus on Forage”, April 2013, https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/forage/drying-forage-for-hay-and-haylage/ Accessed May 2019


  5. What Are Your Bedding Options - is $100/ton Straw an Option?

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

    Wheat fields are thin and straw is hard to find this year. Straw price went sky high last winter and appears to be staying there for 2019. Some farmers who have high quality wheat have been talking about $75 to100 per ton for unbaled wheat straw in the field. As you weigh your options, be sure to consider alternative agronomic crop fodder or cover crops as a bedding source. The two most common beddings, wheat straw and sawdust, are both already in short supply across the state.

    Precut Rye Straw

    The first harvestable option is to look at cover crops you or a neighbor have planted and have not been able to kill with all the recent rains. One option that has gained some popularity is precut rye straw. There are two options when making precut straw, both of them take place just after the head emerges but before pollination and seed formation. The most common process is to spray the rye with Glyphosate and let stand in the field as it dries and bleaches yellow. The Pre Harvest Interval (PHI) for cereals on some glyphosate products is 7 days between application and grazing or harvest. The best rye straw comes from having a couple tenths of rain on the rye, removing the wax from the plants. Once plants are dry, mow and leave lay for a day then rake and bale. The other option is to mow and let lay in wide windrows until dry for baling. Usually the rye needs tedded at least twice in order to get it dry. Average yields for rye straw are 1 ½ to 2 tons per acre; it is recommended that you do not use spring nitrogen fertilizer because it causes rye to lodge if rates are too high. Seeding rates of one bushel or less tend to allow for more air movement within the rye, helping it dry faster. While this is becoming a more common practice with rye, it could also work with wheat and allow for earlier soybean planting. Remember, we will be removing some phosphorous and potassium in the straw.

    Corn Stalks and Soybean Stubble

    More producers are moving to baling residue that is left over after harvesting corn and soybeans. This can be a great bedding source but also removes coverage that helps prevent winter soil erosion. One option for this may be to bale the residue and then plant a cover crop to protect the soil from erosion and maintain organic matter. While we may bring the residue back in manure, the cover crop helps prevent erosion. Even if it is oats that does not over winter, the cover helps avoid erosion. On average, one ton of residue is produced per 40 bushels of corn or 30 bushels of soybeans. This leads to about 2 tons/acre of soybean stubble and 4 to 5 tons/acre of corn stalks to harvest. Soybean stubble is dusty but can be fairly easy to bale as long as you don’t have green stems. Often when making soybean stubble straw, you remove the spreader to make windrows but leave the chopper on either slowing it down or removing the knifes so that it is sized but not dust. This creates windrows that can be baled within hours of combining, making it easier to bale than corn stalks. Soybean residue does wear more on balers than wheat straw but is gentler than corn stalks. Another challenge is that soybean stubble bales need stored inside so that they do not get wet and rot. Corn stalks are very commonly used for feed and bedding. The challenge is with falls like this past year, it rains every two days and corn harvest is delayed, thus it can be difficult to make dry corn stalks for bedding. Corn stalks are much harder on harvest equipment than wheat straw; some older square balers struggle to make stalk bales and need the knotters cleaned more often than with other crops. Some producers make corn stalk bedding by windrowing the cobs, leaves, and a few stalks that come out of the combine. This leads to low tonnage yields and more wear on the pickup but less erosion. The more common method is to use a flail mower to mow the stalks and chop them; a bush hog can work but this does not size the stalks as well. After stalks are mowed and dry, they are raked and baled. With both corn stalks and soybean stubble, nutrients are removed from your field (see Table 1 to calculate nutrient removal). It is also important to make sure your bedding will be able to keep your barn dry. A study from Canada revealed that wheat straw actually holds less pounds of water per pound of bedding than other crop residues. If the bedding material weighed 1 lb before soaking and 3.5 lb after, the absorbency factor is: (3.5 - 1) = 2.5, which means the material has the capacity to hold 2.5 times its weight in water.

    Table 1. Crop Nutrients and Absorbency.


    Corn (lb/ton)

    Soybeans (lb/ton)

    Wheat (lb/ton)

















    Absorbency factor




    Value of nutrients per ton (no S)




    There are a few alternative bedding sources, some of which are more expensive. Some are also tasty but have low digestibility, leading to decreased feed efficiency. Most organic materials can be used for bedding, including kiln-dried sawdust, shavings, shredded/chopped paper, barley and oats straw, over mature hay or low quality hay made from waterways and buffer strips if not in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Just because you need straw doesn’t mean it will be a profitable decision to keep a poor wheat stand that will have low yields and low straw tonnage. One last option is to purchase straw from out of state, but the most risky part of this option is the potential for importing noxious weeds onto your farm that are herbicide resistant.

  6. Manure Sampling for Nutrient Analysis

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

    Applying livestock manure based on nutrient content is one factor involved in using manure more effectively. There are two main challenges to sampling manure for a nutrient analysis, determining when to sample and then collecting a representative sample.  Ideally, a manure sample is submitted before application and the results are used in calculating the field application rate. In practice, this is difficult, especially for liquid manure systems that require agitation before application. In reality, manure is easiest to sample at the time of application, when it is being loaded and hauled to the field.The main disadvantage of this time period is that the results are not available to guide the present application. However, manure nutrient values typically remain fairly consistent and constant within a farm, provided the livestock production system does not change significantly between years. In this case, the analysis results can serve to guide future applications. Annual manure sampling across manure types will allow the farm to establish baseline nutrient values. 

    The second challenge is collecting a representative sample to send to the lab. The small sample sent in to the lab must accurately represent many tons of manure in a solid system or thousands of gallons of manure in a liquid system. In order to accurately represent the quantity of manure being applied, it may be necessary to collect several different samples throughout the hauling and application period. Manure sampling guidelines are similar to recommendations for soil and forage sampling. Take several subsamples, combine them together, mix, and take a composite sample to send to the lab. Typically, samples are sent to the lab in either plastic bottles (liquid) or one-gallon heavy-duty zip-lock bags. Often, labs will provide the containers. The next question is how is the sample to be collected? What is the sampling procedure and what tools are needed?

    For solid manure systems, sample while the spreader is being loaded or when the manure is being spread in the field. Collect samples that represent the beginning, middle, and end of the process. If sampling during loading, use a plastic bucket to collect a representative sample of what is going into the spreader. Try to collect at least five samples (more is better) during the application process. As each bucket is collected, empty it on to a tarp or a clean surface. Mix all the samples together thoroughly and take a subsample from the composite mix that will be sent to the lab. To sample during spreading, lay out a tarp or sheet of heavy plastic in the field. Collect the manure from the tarp after the spreader has passed over or by it and place the manure in a bucket. Repeat this for at least five loads. Once again, mix the different samples together and then collect a representative subsample from the composite mix to send to the lab.

    In liquid manure systems, the pit or lagoon must be agitated to get a uniform sample. Depending upon the size of the pit or lagoon, the agitation equipment, and the objective of the manure application, the agitation process can take several hours or even the better part of an entire day. Without adequate agitation, nutrients are stratified. This has implications for both field application rates and sample results. Sampling directly from the storage structure is usually more difficult and causes more variation in the nutrient analysis results than when sampling directly during loading into the spreader. University of Massachusetts Extension has a publication entitled “Sampling Dairy Manure” (https://ag.umass.edu/crops-dairy-livestock-equine/fact-sheets/sampling-dairy-manure) that describes how to sample dairy manure, including how to make a PVC sampling probe that can be used to sample directly from manure lagoons. The key is to sample from multiple locations around the lagoon and to the full depth of the lagoon. Mix those subsamples in a bucket and collect a representative sample to send to the lab.

    Sampling during loading is similar to the procedure for solid manure. Collect at least five samples during the process of loading the spreader. Save these samples in a separate bucket and when finished collecting samples, mix thoroughly and obtain a representative sample to send to the lab. For liquid samples, if the sampling process is going to occur over a period of hours, keep the subsamples on ice to prevent ammonia losses. To sample during spreading for surface application spreaders, place buckets around the field to collect samples. Place buckets to collect samples from multiple spreader loads. Collect samples after each load, keep them on ice to prevent ammonia loss, combine samples, mix thoroughly, and obtain a representative sample to send to the lab.

    Penn State University Extension has a very good publication entitled “Manure Sampling for Nutrient Management Planning” that provides information on sampling procedures, sending a sample for analysis, lab test results, and use/interpretation of results. It is available online at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/nutrient-management/educational/manure-storage-and-handling/manure-sampling-for-nutrient-management-planning. Manure sampling requires some forethought and effort to get a reliable nutrient analysis, but it is an important component of a nutrient management plan. 


  7. Heat Stress in Dairy Cows

    Ms. Morgan Westover, Senior, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

    At $900 million a year, heat stress has a large financial burden on the U.S. Dairy Industry (St. Pierre et al., 2003). Therefore, managing heat stress in dairy cows is an important challenge that all producers should be working to overcome. With summer rapidly approaching, it is important to prepare now for the high temperatures that will be seen throughout the next three to four months. Heat stress results when an animal can no longer keep their body temperature low and there is an accumulation of heat load within the animal (Tucker et al., 2019). Usually, this occurs when the primary means of cooling, radiation, conduction, and convection are no longer effective. Heat stress can be detected from elevated body temperature, respiration rate or panting, or environmental monitoring (Tucker et al., 2019). Although the exact threshold an animal becomes heat stressed may vary slightly, a cow with a high heat load will attempt to dissipate heat by sweating, seeking shade, increasing their respiration rate, increasing their time spent standing, consuming less feed, and drinking more (Tucker et al., 2019).

    The temperature humidity index (THI) is one example of environmental monitoring for heat stress. THI is shown to have a large negative correlation with dry matter intake (DMI; West, 2003). Milk yield is also negatively impacted as THI rises. With each unit increase on the THI index, it is estimated that milk production drops 0.70 lb/day (West, 2003). This negative effect increases as relative humidity goes up. When relative humidity is 90%, yields from Holstein cows decreased to 69% of normal production (West, 2003). Aside from decreased DMI and lowered milk production, there are also other consequences for a heat stressed animal, such as lowered fertility, potential lameness, and longer calving intervals (Tucker et al., 2019). On the other hand, dry cows also experience negative effects from heat stress. Active cooling during the dry period not only decreases body temperature of the animal but leads to significantly higher milk production during the subsequent lactation, especially during the first 60 days of the lactation (Tao and Dahl, 2013). Like lactating animals, heat stress can also lead to decreased DMI (Tao and Dahl, 2013). In addition, cows that experience heat stress prepartum have reduced development of the mammary gland and less functional mammary cells (Tao and Dahl, 2013).

    So, it is important to make sure that your farm is equipped to handle high temperatures this summer. Aside from shading cows, there are a variety of methods to cool cows. Evaporative cooling is one means of cooling cows that is very effective as long as the humidity is not too high (Tucker et al., 2019). Sprinklers are one option to complete this. When utilized every 15 minutes for 1.5 minutes, sprinklers can improve milk production by 11.6% (West 2003). Utilization of fans to increase airflow is also another way to cool cows (West, 2003). Utilizing a combination of both typically provides the most relief from heat and the best cooling (West, 2003). In addition to the types of tools available for heat abatement, producers should also consider where they are utilizing them. It is critical to make sure that heat abatement is utilized in the parlor holding area, along the feed alley, and over free stalls.

    With that, it is also vital to make sure that the maintenance of fans and sprinklers is kept up. Debris around fans, belt wear, misalignment of pulleys, and dust accumulation are all signs that fans need some attention. Water lines and nozzles are important areas to check for wear on sprinkler systems. If the facility has a natural ventilation system, it is also essential to ensure that curtains are being opened. Routine checks of these can allow you to get ahead of the heat of summer, as it is important to make sure all fans and sprinklers are up and running and ready to go now before the warm days of June, July, and August are upon us.  


    St. Pierre, N.R., B. Cobanov, and G. Schnitkey. 2003. Economic losses from heat stress by US livestock industries. J. Dairy Sci. 86:E52-E77.

    Tao, S., and G. E. Dahl. 2013. Invited Review: Heat stress effects during late gestation on dry cows and their calves. J. Dairy Sci. 96: 4079-4093.

    Tucker, C.B., A. Drwencke, J.M. Van Os, G. Tresoldi, and K.E. Schütz. 2019. Detecting and abating heat load in dairy cows. Proc. Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference. The Ohio State University, Columbus. Pages 11-16.

    West, J. W. 2003. Effects of heat-stress on production in dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 86: 2131-2144.

  8. 2019 Dairy Margin Coverage Program – Sign-up Coming Soon!

    Mrs. Dianne Shoemaker, Farm Management Field Specialist, The Ohio State University Extension

    Occasionally it is nice to catch a break…and breaks have been hard to find in the cow-milking business for a while now.  So, put on your mitt because it is nearly time to play ball.  The Farm Service Agency (FSA) plans to open the sign-up period on June 17, 2019 for the newly renovated Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program, re-named and re-configured in the 2018 Farm Bill.  The changes you will see in the DMC Program attempt to fix some of the problems that rendered the Dairy Margin Protection Program largely ineffective until initial adjustments were implemented early in 2018.

    Two of the biggest changes that will positively impact farms of all sizes include:  1) adding 3 new margins, $8.50, $9.00 and $9.50, at reasonable premiums, and 2) allowing farms with base production of more than 5 million pounds to make a second margin election for pounds over the first 5 million.  

    There are also opportunities to recover program participation net losses from 2014, 2015, 2016, or 2017.  Repayment can be received either as cash (50% of the net loss), or by applying it to premiums for participation in the new program (75% of the net loss).  What does this mean?  If a farm purchased $6.50 margin coverage in 2016, paid a premium of $3,500 and received a total indemnity payment of $500, they had a $3,000 net loss.  The farm can now choose to receive half the difference, or $1,500 as a cash payment.  The other option is to receive $2,250, or 75% of the amount, as a credit toward premiums for DMC Program participation.  If you participated in any or all of those years, you will receive notification from your Farm Services Agency office with your amounts and options.

    So why should you step up to the plate?  Just like 2018, when sign-ups were re-opened for the updated program, sign-ups for 2019 will open well after January, but participation will be retroactive to January 1.  When the sign-up period opens on June 17, we will know exactly what the margins will be for January ($7.99), February ($8.22), March ($8.85), and April.  Signups will end September 20, so you could wait and know what the actual margins are through at least July.  As USDA announces new monthly margins, you can find them posted at https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/Dairy-MPP/index    

    No need to wait

    For farms with up to 5 million pounds of base production, indemnity payments for January through March more than cover the premiums at the highest margin ($9.50). 


    Base milk: 5,000,000 lb (about 200 cows)
    Farm elects to cover 95% of their base, 4,750,000 lb, or 47,500 cwt
    Coverage level selected: $9.50 margin costing $0.15/cwt
    The program assumes that production is equal across months, or 47,500/12 = 3,958 cwt/month.

    Because we know the January, February, and March margins, we can calculate the current indemnity payments.  These payments are made on the difference between the purchased margin coverage level ($9.50 in this example) and the announced margin, times the monthly cwt covered:

    Jan       $1.51 x 3,958 cwt = $5,977
    Feb      $1.28 x 3,958 cwt = $5,066
    March $0.65 x 3,958 cwt  =  $2,573
    Total payments                 = $13,616

    6.2% Sequestration        =     $844
    Administration fee          =     $100
    Premium                         =  $7,125
    Difference                       =  $5,547 paid to the farm

    Since the signup is retroactive to January 1, we know that not only will the known indemnity payments cover all program costs, we also know there will be net positive dollars to help pay a few bills. 

    How many total net dollars for 2019 is unclear and changing.  Two weeks ago, projections indicated that there would be announced margins less than $9.50 well into the summer.  If recent milk market rallies hold and show up in milk checks, then there could few or no further indemnity payments.  We all hope that that will be the case!

    Second election for base pounds over 5 million

    A major change that impacts farms with more than 200 cows is the opportunity to make a margin selection for the first 5 million pounds of base milk and a different margin selection for any base over 5 million pounds.  The Tier 2 premiums for the > 5 million pounds are substantially higher than premiums for the first 5 million pounds (Table 1).  To be allowed to make a second selection, the farm must purchase coverage at $8.50, $9.00, or $9.50 for the first 5 million base pounds (Tier 1 milk and premiums). 

    Table 1. Tier 1 Margins and Premiums for the Dairy Margin Protection Program (2014 – 2018), and Dairy Margin Coverage Program (2019 – 2022).

    Tier 2 premiums are the same as Tier 1 premiums for $4.00, $4.50, and $5.00 margins (Table 2).  The premium for the $5.50 Tier 2 margin costs more than three times as much as the corresponding Tier 1 premium, with premiums increasing exponentially until they reach $1.813 for the $8.00 margin.  The higher coverage levels quickly become cost prohibitive and are unlikely to make sense for most farms.

    However, with the new 2-election option, farms with base production of more than 5 million pounds should seriously consider maximizing coverage in Tier 1 and electing the $4.00, $4.50, or $5.00 margin coverage on their Tier 2 base for 2019.

    Table 2. Margins and Tier 1 and Tier 2 Premiums, Dairy Margin Coverage Program, 2018 Farm Bill.

    Long-term commitment = 25% off premiums

    Another option for farmers to consider as they sign up this year is the 25% premium discount option.  There is a large string attached to the 25% discount, as you have to commit to your election for 5 years. 

    Decision Tool

    How to make a decision? Particularly if you are considering the five-year commitment, use the decision tool developed by Mark Stephenson and crew at the University of Wisconsin.  The new DMC Decision Tool, which incorporates the changes legislated in the 2018 Farm Bill, is now up and running at https://dairymarkets.org.  This is a very handy tool that allows farmers to enter their historic production (still starts with the highest of 2011, 2012, or 2013 production – verify your current production history with your FSA office) and explore the cost and potential returns of different coverage percentages and levels.  It will lay out your costs for 2019 participation, expected payment, and also lay out the premium with the 25% discount and total 5-year cost if you want to consider that option.

    There is also a button to plug in your MPP Premium Repayment amount supplied to you by your FSA office.  It will tell you how much you could receive as a cash payment and how much of your current selection’s premium would be covered if you chose that option.  The decision tool’s milk and feed price data are updated nearly daily, so you may receive different “expected payment” results depending on what the markets are doing. 

    OSU Extension and FSA offices will be working together and offering educational programs before and early in the sign-up period to review the changes and options for farmers.  Look at the options for your farm.  Batter up.


  9. Dairy Palooza 2019

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

    It all began with a simple idea cultivated by loyal volunteers. However, the only way Dairy Palooza comes to life is the constant stream of donors, supporters, advisors, parents, and the enthusiasm of every participant! On April 27th, the Canfield Fairgrounds was the host site of our 9th consecutive version of this innovative program. It was a sunny day and the hospitality was even brighter as nearly 400 people were in attendance! With quality assurance training and a session on writing thank-yous in the morning, we also offered special sessions for adults. Lunch included a special recognition for the Grammers and their initial “leap of faith” when they agreed to host our very first version of the program in 2011. Time was set aside for everyone to show off those Palooza shirts and capture the group photo.

    There was something for everyone in the afternoon sessions. Each 45-minute rotation offered a wide range of topics. There was science and an experiment for Milk in Motion and yet a barnyard display offered the opportunity and training on cattle movement and animal welfare. Dr. Bob, a perennial favorite, kept everyone involved and having fun. Of course, the traditional showmanship, clipping and fitting demos, and artificial insemination basics were on the agenda. Kids also could learn more about connecting with consumers and first-aid as it relates to farm safety. Dairy feeders and goats also had time on the program. Our presenters are the best of the best, including OSU faculty, Extension educators, a registered nurse, and industry professionals who work hard to include a variety of hands-on activities. Even Cloverbuds had their own identity with a fun-filled program that transformed them into caped, super cow crusaders.

    At the closing, two lucky individuals were drawn for $50 Amazon gift cards and others had their tickets drawn for door prizes. The semen raffle winners were also announced and pleased to collect their $100 gift certificates.

    Beyond the teaching and learning, all participants go home with a folder filled with materials, a souvenir t-shirt, a first-aid kit, a clipboard, and a heavy canvas bag so all is kept in order.

    Dairy Palooza has its own Facebook and web page with special branding and logos developed over the years. Check these social media sources often for updates. Come be a part of our special First Decade celebration in 2020!

    Dairy Palooza 2019 group photo.