Buckeye Dairy News: VOLUME 22, ISSUE 5

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

    April Frye White, 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 $24.23 and $22.84/cwt, respectively. The Federal milk order price for June protein is $4.53/lb, leading to a higher Class III milk price. The Class III futures for September was ~$6/cwt lower than August at $16.35/cwt, followed by $18.86/cwt in October.

    Updated Corn Silage Price

    A new corn silage price used throughout this article was calculated this month as corn silage harvest winds down across the state. This year’s approximate price for normal corn silage (32 to 38% dry matter), based on a $3.65/bu corn grain price at start of day September 28, 2020, is $46.63/ton. Based on its nutritive value, home grown corn silage continues to be a bargain feed in dairy cattle rations.

    Nutrient prices

    When comparing the prices in Table 1 to the 5-year averages, the current prices of nutrients are favorable. The price of NEL is about 36% higher than the 5 yr. average ($0.08/Mcal). However, the price of MP and eNDF are about 40 and 10% lower compared to the 5-year averages ($0.42/lb and $0.08/lb, respectively). The price of MP is about 40% lower than May ($0.43/lb), but the price of NEL is 229% higher than the previous issue ($0.05/Mcal). These swings in nutrient prices are likely related to missing price information for ring dried blood meal, as well as some larger shifts in the prices of other feeds. Feed prices are shown in Table 2.

    To estimate profitability at these nutrient prices, the Cow-Jones Index was used for average US cows weighing 1500 lb and producing milk with 3.9% fat and 3.2% protein. For September’s issue, the income over nutrient cost (IONC) for cows milking 70 lb/day and 85 lb/day is about $13.85 and $14.30/cwt, respectively. This is lower than estimates for July ($15.97 and $16.39/cwt, respectively), but the current IONC is likely to 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, or for profitability changes related to culling cows.

    Volatile feed prices continue as in recent issues, but current feed and milk prices may offer some positive opportunities.

    Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms, September 22, 2020.

    Economic Value of Feeds

    Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on September 22, 2020 are presented in Table 2. Detailed results for all 26 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. For this issue, a price for ring dried blood meal was not reported, so blood meal was added to the appraisal set in order to provide a price prediction range.

    Table 2. Actual, breakeven (predicted) and 75% confidence limits of 26 feed commodities used on Ohio dairy farms, September 22, 2020.

    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, 2020.

    Bargains At Breakeven Overpriced
    Bakery byproducts Whole cottonseed Mechanicall extracted canola meal
    Corn, ground, dry Soybean meal - expeller 4
    Corn silage Wheat bran Fish meal
    Distillers dried grains Soybean hulls Beet pulp
    Feather meal Gluten meal Molasses
    Gluten feed Alfalfa hay - 40% NDF Solvent extracted canola meal
    Hominy Blood meal* 44% Soybean meal
    Meat meal   Tallow
    Wheat middlings   Whole, roasted soybeans
        48% Soybean meal
      *Price not reported  

    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 the Table 4.

    Table 4. Prices of dairy nutrients using the 5-nutrient solution for Ohio dairy farms, September 22, 2020.

  2. Precautions for Feeding Frosted and Drought-Stressed Forages

    Dr. Mark Sulc, Professor and Extension Forage Specialist, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University

    Livestock owners feeding forage need to keep in mind the potential for some forage toxicities and other problems that can develop this fall. High nitrates and prussic acid poisoning are the main potential concerns. These are primarily an issue with annual forages and several weed species, but nitrates can be an issue even in drought stressed perennial forages. There is also an increased risk of bloat when grazing legumes after a frost.

    Nitrate Toxicity

    Drought stressed forages can accumulate toxic nitrate levels. This can occur in many different forage species, including both annuals and perennials. Several areas in Ohio have been dry of late. Corn, oat and other small grains, sudangrass, and sorghum sudangrass, and many weed species, including johnsongrass, can accumulate toxic levels of nitrates. Even alfalfa can accumulate toxic nitrate levels under severe drought stress.

    Before feeding or grazing drought stressed forage, send in a forage sample to be tested for nitrates. Most labs now offer nitrate tests, so it is likely that you can get a forage nitrate test by your favorite lab. Several labs are listed at the end of this article that do nitrate testing. This list is for your convenience and no labs are intentionally omitted. Check your chosen lab’s website or call them and follow their specific instructions about how to collect and handle the sample. The cost is well worth it against the risk of losing animals.

    See the following references for more details:

    Nitrates in Cattle Sheep and Goats (University of Wisconsin Extension) https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/forage/nitrate-poisoning-in-cattle-sheep-and-goats/

    Nitrates and Prussic Acid in Forages (Texas Cooperative Extension) http://forages.tamu.edu/PDF/Nitrate.pdf

    Nitrate accumulation in frosted forages. Freezing damage slows down metabolism in all plants, and this might result in nitrate accumulation in plants that are still growing, especially grasses like oats and other small grains, millet, and sudangrass.  This build-up usually is not hazardous to grazing animals, but greenchop or hay cut right after a freeze can be more dangerous. When in doubt, test the forage for nitrates before grazing or feeding it.

    Prussic Acid Toxicity

    Several forage and weed species contain compounds called cyanogenic glucosides that are converted quickly to prussic acid (i.e. hydrogen cyanide) in freeze-damaged plant tissues or under drought conditions. Some labs provide prussic acid testing of forages. Sampling and shipping guidelines should be carefully followed because prussic acid is a gas and can dissipate during shipping, leading to a false sense of security when no prussic acid is found in the sample.

    Drought stress can affect prussic acid poisoning risk. Drought-stunted plants can contain or produce prussic acid and can possess toxic levels at maturity. Prussic acid poisoning can be associated with new regrowth following a drought-ending rain. Rain after drought plus young stages of plant maturity can combine to cause toxic levels of prussic acid in forage.

    Plant age affects toxicity. Young, rapidly growing plants of species that contain cyanogenic glucosides will have the highest levels of prussic acid. Pure stands of indiangrass can have lethal levels of cyanide if they are grazed when the plants are less than 8 inches tall.

    Species with prussic acid poisoning potential. Forage species that can contain prussic acid are listed below in decreasing order of risk of toxicity:

    • Grain sorghum = high to very high toxic potential
    • Indiangrass = high toxic potential
    • Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids and forage sorghums = intermediate to high potential
    • Sudangrass hybrids = intermediate potential
    • Sudangrass varieties = low to intermediate in cyanide poisoning potential
    • Piper sudangrass = low prussic acid poisoning potential
    • Pearl millet and foxtail millet = rarely cause toxicity

    Species not usually planted for agronomic use can also develop toxic levels of prussic acid, including the following:

    • Johnsongrass
    • Shattercane
    • Chokecherry
    • Black cherry
    • Elderberry

    It is always a good idea to check areas where wild cherry trees grow after a storm and pick up and discard any fallen limbs to prevent animals from grazing on the leaves and twigs.

    Frost affects toxicity. Cyanogenic glucosides are converted quickly to prussic acid (i.e. hydrogen cyanide) in freeze-damaged plant tissues. Prussic acid poisoning potential is most common after the first autumn frost. New growth from frosted plants is palatable but can be dangerously high in prussic acid.

    Fertility can affect poisoning risk. Plants growing under high nitrogen levels or in soils deficient in phosphorus or potassium will be more likely to have high prussic acid poisoning potential.

    Fresh forage has more risk. After frost damage, cyanide levels will likely be higher in fresh forage as compared with silage or hay. This is because cyanide is a gas and dissipates as the forage is wilted and dried for making silage or dry hay.

    Prussic Acid Toxicity Symptoms

    Animals can die within minutes if they consume forage with high concentrations of prussic acid. Prussic acid interferes with oxygen transfer in the blood stream of the animal, causing it to die of asphyxiation. Before death, symptoms include excess salivation, difficult breathing, staggering, convulsions, and collapse.

    Ruminants are more susceptible to prussic acid poisoning than horses or swine because cud chewing and rumen bacteria help release the cyanide from plant tissue.

    Grazing Precautions Against Nitrate & Prussic Acid Poisoning

    The following guidelines will help you avoid danger to your livestock this fall when feeding species with nitrates or prussic acid poisoning potential:

    • Under drought conditions, allow animals to graze only the upper one-third to one-half of the plant or the leaves of coarse-stemmed forages if the nitrate level in these plant parts is safe. Monitor animals closely and remove them quickly when the upper portion of plants is grazed off.
    • Generally, forage nitrate levels drop significantly 3 to 5 days after sufficient rainfall, but it is always safer to send in a sample for testing before grazing or feeding forage soon after drought stress periods.
    • Making hay does not reduce nitrate levels in the forage, but the hay can be tested and diluted sufficiently with other feeds to make it safe for animals.
    • Ensiling forage converts nitrates to volatile nitrous oxides, or “silo gases”. These gases are highly toxic to humans. Safety practices include removing tarps from a portion of the silo a day or two before removing the silage from the bunker.
    • Do not graze on nights when frost is likely. High levels of toxic prussic acid are produced within hours after a frost, even if it was a light frost.
    • Do not graze after a killing frost until plants are dry, which usually takes 5 to 7 days.
    • After a non-killing frost, do not allow animals to graze for two weeks because the plants usually contain high concentrations of prussic acid.  
    • New growth may appear at the base of the plant after a non-killing frost. If this occurs, wait for a killing freeze, and then wait another 10 to 14 days before grazing the new growth.
    • Do not allow hungry or stressed animals to graze young growth of species with prussic acid potential. To reduce the risk, feed ground cereal grains to animals before turning them out to graze.
    • Use heavy stocking rates (4 to 6 head of cattle/acre) and rotational grazing to reduce the risk of animals selectively grazing leaves that can contain high levels of prussic acid.
    • Never graze immature growth or short regrowth following a harvest or grazing (at any time of the year). Graze or greenchop sudangrass only after it is 15 to 18 inches tall. Sorghum-sudangrass should be 24 to 30 inches tall before grazing.
    • Do not graze wilted plants or plants with young tillers.


    Green-chopping will not reduce the level of nitrates and is not likely to greatly reduce the level of prussic acid present. However, green-chopping frost-damaged plants will lower the risk compared with grazing directly because animals are less likely to selectively graze damaged tissue. Stems in the forage dilute the high prussic acid content that can occur in leaves. However, the forage can still be toxic, so feed greenchop with great caution after a frost. If feeding greenchopped forage of species containing cyanogenic glucosides, feed it within a few hours of greenchopping, and do not leave greenchopped forage in wagons or feedbunks overnight.

    Hay and Silage

    Prussic acid content in the plant decreases dramatically during the hay drying process and the forage should be safe once baled as dry hay. The forage can be mowed any time after a frost if you are making hay. It is rare for dry hay to contain toxic levels of prussic acid. However, if the hay was not properly cured and dried before baling, it should be tested for prussic acid content before feeding to livestock.

    Forage with prussic acid potential that is stored as silage is generally safe to feed. To be extra cautious, wait 5 to 7 days after a frost before chopping for silage. If the plants appear to be drying down quickly after a killing frost, it is safe to ensile sooner.

    Delay feeding silage for 8 weeks after ensiling. If the forage likely contained high levels of cyanide at the time of chopping, hazardous levels of cyanide might remain and the silage should be analyzed before feeding.

    Species That Can Cause Bloat After Frost

    Forage legumes, such as alfalfa and clovers, have an increased risk of bloat when grazed one or two days after a hard frost. The bloat risk is highest when grazing pure legume stands and least when grazing stands having mostly grass.

    The safest management is to wait a few days after a killing frost before grazing pure legume stands – wait until the forage begins to dry from the frost damage. It is also a good idea to make sure animals have some dry hay before being introduced to lush fall pastures that contain significant amounts of legumes. You can also swath your legume-rich pasture ahead of grazing and let animals graze dry hay in the swath.  Bloat protectants like poloxalene can be fed as blocks or mixed with grain. While this an expensive supplement, it does work well when animals eat a uniform amount each day.

    Frost and Equine Toxicity Problems (source: Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska)

    Minnesota specialists report that fall pasture, especially frost damaged pasture, can have high concentrations of nonstructural carbohydrates, like sugars.  This can lead to various health problems for horses, such as founder and colic.  They recommend pulling horses off of pasture for about one week following the first killing frost.

    High concentrations of nonstructural carbohydrates are most likely in leafy regrowth of cool-season grasses, such as brome, timothy, and bluegrass, but native warm-season grasses also may occasionally have similar risks.

    Another unexpected risk can come from dead maple leaves that fall or are blown into horse pastures.  Red blood cells can be damaged in horses that eat 1.5 to 3 lb of dried maple leaves per 1000 lb of body weight.  This problem apparently does not occur with fresh green leaves or with any other animal type.  Fortunately, the toxicity does not appear to remain in the leaves the following spring.

    Where to Test Forages for Nitrates (there probably are others not listed)

    Brookside Laboratories, Inc.
    New Bremen, Ohio

    Cumberland Valley Analytical Services
    Waynesboro, PA

    Dairyland Labs
    Wisconsin & Minnesota

    Dairy One
    Ithaca, NY

    Holmes Lab
    Millersburg, Ohio
    330-893-2933 or 330-893-1326

    Rock River Lab
    Wooster, OH

    Spectrum Analytic
    Washington Court House, Ohio

    Indianapolis, Indiana


  3. Dairy Cash Flow Assistance UPDATED: CFAP 2 Program Application Open Through December 11, 2020, EIDL Still Available

    Dianne Shoemaker, Farm Management Specialist, Ohio State University Extension

    2020 has certainly been an interesting year. So many things have not turned out as expected, and as a result, cash flow is still an issue on many dairy farms. Two programs are currently available that may be of assistance.

    CFAP 2 – Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) – Part 2

    The original CFAP program administered through the USDA Farm Service Agency provided direct assistance to farms with qualifying crops or livestock through funding from the CFAP and the CCC (Commodity Credit Corporation). That program closed on September 11th, but the market challenges did not end. In response, the CFAP 2 Program was announced and is accepting applications from September 21 through December 11, 2020.  CFAP 2 funding for dairy is provided through the CCC.

    What does this mean for dairy farmers? There are some differences from CFAP 1. The dairy (milk) component is very straight-forward: 

    Cows milk is considered a “price-trigger commodity” for this program, meaning it suffered at least a five percent national price decline when comparing the average price from July 27 – 31, 2020 to the average price from January 13-17, 2020. CFAP 2 provides a $1.20/cwt payment for documented pounds of milk produced (sold) between April 1 and August 31, 2020, as well as predicted production from September through December 2020. Predicted production will be equal to the daily average milk sold from April through August times 122; the total number of days in September, October, November and December. Those pounds will also be multiplied by $1.20/cwt.

    Farmers will need to provide records of milk produced and sold (the final milk check as documentation) from April 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020.

    Sample Dairy Calculation:

    While the milk portion is very strait forward, there are some differences from CFAP 1 for animals:

    • Cull cows are not eligible for payments (whether cull dairy cows or cull beef cows).
    • Payments for bull calves, beef feeders, dairy steers or cull heifers (animals have never calved) is $55 per head based on the highest one-day inventory between April 16 and August 31.
    • For most dairy farms that do not raise feeders or finish cattle, that will likely be the day they sold the most bull calves or cull heifers during that time period.
    • Animals that have calved or are intended for milk production are not eligible.

    Work with your local FSA office for guidance as details continue to be addressed for CFAP 2. Eligibility requirements continue from CFAP 1, while payment limitations have been re-set. Detailed information on these subjects can be found at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap

    EIDL – Economic Injury Disaster Loan

    This is a CARES-authorized Small Business Association (SBA) program which is currently open for farm and other small-business applications at the sba.gov website. Farm businesses and agricultural cooperatives with no more than 500 employees may apply for EIDL, which gives loans up to $2 million for businesses that suffer economic injuries due to COVID-19.  Approved loans will incur 3.75% interest for terms up to 30 years. Collateral will be required for larger loans. Applications are taken on-line only.  Find more information at http://sba.gov



  4. Dairy Pricing, Outlook, and Risk Management Series Coming in November

    Dianne Shoemaker, Farm Management Specialist, Ohio State University Extension

    How in the world did we end up with a negative eight dollar producer price differential (PPD) in July? What do markets look like moving forward? What tools can a dairy farm use to manage price risk in the future?

    These are excellent questions and the focus of a three-part mini-series for Ohio’s dairy industry coming in November. The meetings will be live via zoom, so grab your lunch and join us on your computer or listen in from your phone from noon to one pm for any or all of these sessions:

    Thursday, November 5th - How did we get to a -$8 PPD?

    • Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin

    Tuesday, November 17thDairy Fundamental Outlook and Trade

    • William Loux, Director of Global Trade Analysis, Dairy Export Council
    • Mike McCully, McCully Group

    Tuesday, November 24thDairy Risk Management Tools

    • Kenny Burdine, Livestock Marketing and Management, University of Kentucky
    • Jason Hartschuh, ANR Educator, The Ohio State University
    • Chris Zoller, ANR Educator, The Ohio State University

    Each session will last one hour with opportunities for questions.  There is no cost for the program, but please register ahead at: http://go.osu.edu/DairyRiskManagement. You will receive an email with information about joining the program via the Zoom platform.