Buckeye Dairy News : VOLUME 21, ISSUE 5

  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 July and August were at $16.13 and $17.37/cwt, respectively. The Class III component price for July closed about $1.40/cwt higher at $17.55/cwt and was similar in August at $17.60/cwt. The Class III future for September is similar to July and August component prices at $17.48/cwt, followed by a small jump to $17.82/cwt in October. Overall, milk prices are pretty good compared to the 4-year Class III average ($15.36/cwt).

    Looking further in advance, I do not expect the Class III milk price to change much until 2020. Currently, Class III futures are steady and trading between $17.50 and $18.00/cwt. The number of cows being milked in the US are also still going down and have reduced total milk production about 2% compared to 2018. However, exports are down about 2%, and any improvements in price because of lower milk production will likely be a wash.

    Nutrient prices

    As in previous issues, feed ingredients commonly used in Ohio were analyzed using the software program SESAME™ developed by Dr. St-Pierre at The Ohio State University. The resulting analysis can be used to appraise important nutrients in dairy rations, estimate break-even prices of ingredients, and identify feedstuffs that are significantly underpriced as of September 22, 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.  

    Overall, commodity prices are starting to go down as crops are beginning to be harvested. The daily cost of feeding cows has also gone down slightly ($5.93 vs. $5.64/cow/day). This is mainly because the cost of NEL has gone down and is 27% lower than July (11¢/Mcal). The price of e-NDF is not very different from July (12¢/lb), whereas the costs of MP and ne-NDF have increased around 6 and 4¢/lb, respectively. In the near future, I would suggest producers and their nutritionist start locking in low prices on commodities and reformulating rations to enable feeding bargain feedstuffs in the long term.

    In this issue, I also calculated a new corn silage price for the 2019 growing year: $48.26/ton (35% dry matter). This price is about 8% higher than the 2018 growing year ($44.60/ton) but is still a bargain compared to other common ingredients. The price I calculated is based on the crop value as if it was harvested for corn grain rather than silage. Because corn silage is dual purpose and provides marked amounts of both NEL and e-NDF for dairy cows, the true value of corn silage to the producer should actually be around $80.56/ton, about 40% higher than my calculation. However, corn silage quality varies considerably based on location (e.g. weather and growing conditions), harvesting and storage conditions, or practices as well as the corn hybrid planted. Using the 75% confidence intervals defined in Table 2 are better predictors of what corn silage may actually be worth to producers when accounting for this real world variability. The intervals, however, still do not contain the calculated value based off corn grain (i.e., the $48.26/ton estimate). Bottom line, corn silage should be a no brainer for making up the majority of the forage component for rations during the upcoming year, but only if you have stored enough – running out of corn silage in August will be a huge financial burden.

    To estimate profitability 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 September’s issue, the income over nutrient cost (IONC) for cows milking 70 lb/day and 85 lb/day cows is about $11.00 and $11.47/cwt, respectively. This is almost $2.00/cwt more than estimates from July ($9.17 and $9.67/cwt, respectively) and should be profitable for Ohio dairy farmers. As a word of caution, these estimates of IONC do not account for the cost of replacements or dry cows.

    Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms, September 22, 2019.

    Economic Value of Feeds

    Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on September 22, 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, September 22, 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 based on current nutrient values, 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 value) 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, September 22, 2019.

    Bargains At Breakeven Overpriced
    Corn, ground,dry Bakery byproducts Alfalfa hay - 40% NDF
    Corn silage Beet pulp Blood meal
    Distillers dried grains Gluten meal Citrus pulp
    Feather meal Soybean hulls 41% Cottonseed meal
    Gluten feed 48% Soybean meal Fish meal
    Mechanically extracted canola meal
    Hominy Soybean meal - expeller Molasses
    Meat meal Whole cottonseed Solvent extracted canola meal
    Wheat middlings Wheat bran 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, September 22, 2019.




  2. NEW RELEASE: 15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness

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

    In an effort to strengthen the financial stability of dairy farm families, a group of Extension personnel at Ohio State published the first copy of the 15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness in 1997. The publication was revised in 2008 to mostly update some of the benchmarks for the respective 15 measures. The new release of this publication in 2019 not only provides updates to all of the measures, but some of the measures were totally revised and some new measures provided. The financial benchmarks were primarily developed from data provided by the Ohio Farm Business Summaries, New York data published by Cornell University, and the Northeast Dairy Farm Summaries published by Northeast Farm Credit. The 15 measures described in the publication are listed in Table 1.

    During the 22 years since the first publication on the 15 measures, the dairy industry has incurred many changes. During this time period, the average milk yield per cow in Ohio has increased about 5,600 lb, yet the rate of return has ranged from $36 (2015) to 1,263 (2014) per cow. You will also note that the time period from the highest to the highest rate of return was only one year. During the 22-year time period, the average US milk price ranged from $12.11 (2002) to 23.97/cwt (2014). These magnitudes of volatility in net farm income and milk prices create many challenges for dairy farm families, thus management of key financial measures is a must for survival. During the past 22 years, the average number of cows in the US has remained somewhat constant (~ 9.3 million cows), but the Ohio dairy herd has decreased from 280,000 to 253,000 cows. The number of farms has decreased from 123,700 to 37,468 and from 6000 to  2100 for the US and Ohio, respectively.

    The new publication was prepared by ten OSU personnel to provide the most up-to-date information on dairy farm financial management and to address other key issues of management on dairy farms. The complete publication is available at: https://dairy.osu.edu.

     Table 1. List of the measures in the new publication “15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness”.

    Measure Category Description Benchmark
    1 Rate of Production Pounds of milk sold per worker >1,000,000 ECM1
    2 Cost Control Feed cost per cwt milk sold and income over feed cost Top 25%
    3 Cost Control Operating expense ratio <70%
    4 Capital Efficiency Dairy investment per cow <$11,000
    5 Capital Efficiency Assess turnover ratio >0.60
    6 Profitability Net farm income per cow >$1,300
    7 Profitability Rate of return on farm assets >10%
    8 Liquidity Current ratio (CR) and working capital (WC) CR 3.0 to 3.5
    WC >25% gross revenue
    9 Repayment Schedule Scheduled debt payment <10% gross receipts
    <$400 per cow
    10 Solvency Debt to asset ratio <30%
    11 Solvency Debt per cow <$3,000 if not expanding
    <$4,300 if expanding
    12 Mission Statement Management team agrees on why they are in business Written mission statement
    13 Maintain Family’s Standard of Living Maintain or increase standard of living 5 to 10% of gross farm income
    14 Motivated Labor Force Managers use personnel management practices which lead to commitment to the mission and goals of the farm Well-trained, enthusiastic, and empowered family members and employees
    15 Manure Nutrient Management Proper utilization of manure nutrients Minimize the cost of nutrient management and reduce environmental risks

    1ECM = Energy-corrected milk