Five tips for cutting dairy food costs


The information below has been provided by dairy traders and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

As farmers across the country grapple with drought conditions and rising feed costs, many are looking for ways to expand feed stocks. Small changes in your food management program can result in big savings.

Here are our top five tips for tightening protocols, reviewing the basics, and getting creative to make sure your flow inventories don’t disappear:

1. Evaluate the inventory of heifers

Just as important as calculating feed stocks is assessing heifer stocks.

“Make sure the heifer inventory matches your farm’s future replacement needs to help manage tight feed stocks,” says Taliah Danzinger, VAS Education Specialist. “If you feed more heifers than you need in the future, chances are that you can keep them all when the costs are high.

Examine the cull rate of cows, heifer survival rate, and the number of heifers born each month. If your cull rate decreases, you may not need as many heifers to replace older cows. Recalculate your heifer inventory if you notice a change in the survival rate of heifers from birth to first calving.

“Looking at your semen usage and the ratio of sexed, conventional, and beef semen can also help keep costs down,” Danzinger explains. “Consider how many heifer calves you expect over the next six months and if you need to keep them all. Managing the springer-wet calf heifer inventory can save money on feed and help market females at the right time.

2. Check for ration mixing errors

Although we would expect our food to come into the blender with the correct ingredient amounts, mistakes can happen. Carefully review the data in your feed management software, such as VAS FeedWatch, for mixing errors.

“Look at the timing between the ingredients, the volume of ingredients used and the order of ingredients,” says Danzinger. “Overfeeding an ingredient instead of sending it back to the produce bay is an almost invisible way to lose food.”

Most feeding software can report when one ingredient is added too quickly after another, indicating that it left a surplus in the feeder bucket before entering the next ingredient.

“Keeping a close eye on the actual weights of each added ingredient can also add up, especially if the reject weights or volume isn’t where you’d like to see it,” says Danzinger.

Mix order is important. Add the ingredients in the correct order and ensure proper mixing to avoid sorting food waste at the feeder.

3. Recalculate the inventory and browse it regularly

Has bad spring weather robbed you of your stock of animal feed? Did you have unexpected deterioration, heavy rain, or a bad spot in the bunker?

“Take frequent feed inventories and recalculate needs to determine when it’s time to change the ration to help stretch a forage until the next crop is available,” says Danzinger.

By staying ahead of forage inventories, you can proactively make feed changes to lower costs.

4. Dig to reduce and weigh

Does your new pen have the same rejection goal as your low group? Should they? Consider your goals and make sure your weights add up. If they don’t, it’s time to investigate.

“Keep your feeder aware of pen movements and number changes before you create a new batch of feed,” says Danzinger.

If you are using VAS FeedWatch as your feed management software, pen numbers will automatically update from DairyComp herd management software.

Consider target weighings. Keep in mind that the narrowing is not just the flow that flies away. Are the needs of fresh cows met when fed in an empty bunk?

“Unprocessed corn kernels in manure, excess nutrient volume beyond a cow’s needs in an unbalanced ration, and spoiled feed are all sneaky ways to reduce feed size,” Danzinger explains.

5. Explore alternative food by-products

Cows are among nature’s best recyclers. Feeding by-products is another way to manage feed costs and contribute to a sustainable future.

“Controlling feed stocks to optimize the inclusion rate is the best way to take advantage of by-products,” says Danzinger. “If forage stocks are tight, consider lowering inclusion rates earlier to use fewer byproducts over a longer period of time rather than adjusting them quickly. ”

Whole cottonseeds, wheat kernels, soybean hulls, and other byproducts can help stabilize a ration when forages are tight.

“It’s always best to allow for flexibility in product choices and secure sources,” says Danzinger.

Work with a VAS expert to assess other ways to reduce feed costs on your farm. Learn more at

VAS is the global market leader in connected farm management systems. As the operating system of choice for the most innovative dairies, VAS software and information solutions help collect and connect data on a farm – from herd management records to feed records and nutrition, through phytosanitary management files. This information is a source of truth, enabling producers and their trusted advisors to make sustainable, profit-oriented management decisions. At the forefront of thought leadership within the dairy industry, VAS enjoys the trust of the producers we serve and the entire dairy community.


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