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

April F. White, Graduate Research Associate, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

Milk Prices

In the January issue, the Class III for February was $17.95/cwt and March was $17.80/cwt. Class III milk closing price for February was very slightly lower than predicted at $17.78/cwt, with protein and butterfat prices at $2.37 and $2.72/lb, respectively. Skim milk price, protein, and butterfat prices are all lower for March than for January, contributing to a lower Cow-Jones Index in this issue. The Class III future for April is $19.63/cwt and the May future is $18.64/cwt, both improved compared to February and March.

Nutrient Prices

It can be helpful to compare the prices in Table 1 to the 5-year averages. Compared to the January issue, nutrient costs are largely stable, with the cost of net energy for lactation (NEL) still just shy of double the 5-year average ($0.09/Mcal). The cost of metabolizable protein (MP) is still about 6% lower than the 5-year average ($0.44/lb).

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 the January issue, the income over nutrient cost (IONC) for cows milking 70 lb/day and 85 lb/day is about $8.62 and $9.21/cwt, respectively. Although still expected to be marginally profitable, both estimates are lower than those in January and continue the downward trend since November. 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.

Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms, March 29, 2023.
TableDescription automatically generatedEconomic Value of Feeds

Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on March 29, 2023 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 local 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. Feeds for which a price was not reported were added to the appraisal set this issue.

Table 2. Actual, breakeven (predicted) and 75% confidence limits of 26 feed commodities used on Ohio dairy farms, March 29, 2023. TableDescription automatically generatedTableDescription automatically generated

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 in oversized text. Conversely, feedstuffs that have moved to the left (i.e., decreased in value) are undersized text. 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. Feeds added to the appraisal set were removed from this table.

Table 3. Partitioning of feedstuffs in Ohio, March 29, 2023.

Bargains At Breakeven Overpriced
Corn, ground, dry   Mechanically extracted canola meal
Corn silage Soybean meal - expeller Whole, roasted soybeans
Distillers dried grains   Wheat bran
Gluten feed Gluten meal 44% Soybean meal
Hominy Meat meal Solvent extracted canola meal
Wheat middlings Whole cottonseed Blood meal
Alfalfa hay - 40% NDF Soybean hulls 41% Cottonseed meal
Feather meal 48% Soybean meal  

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 MP 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, March 29, 2023.
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