Why ship water when you get paid for solids?
Posted on February 27, 2012 in Dairy Performance
By Dr. Eric Schwab
Consumers and processors in the Upper Midwest demand solids to produce high quality dairy products. But how do we produce high solids milk without giving up production? First, let’s take a step back to understand why milk solids play such a big role in the milk check. World demand for dairy is on the rise, but consumer preferences are also changing. Since 1985, demand for fluid milk has held steady whereas demand for products like butter, non-fat dry milk and cheese has grown. The largest growth has been seen in the non-American cheese market with a 4.4-percent increase. In addition, new nutrition trends have changed the way milk is used. Greek yogurt sales have gone from $60 million in 2006 to $1.5 billion in 2011. The “granola bar evolution,” or the recent popularity of high-protein energy bars, has also grown demand for milk protein concentrate. China and other populous Asian countries rely on imports of whey and other dairy products because they do not have the ability to produce enough dairy products to feed their populations. Long story short, people aren’t drinking their milk, they’re eating it.
Using numbers from Federal Milk Marketing Order 30 (Upper Midwest), we estimate that, with a 5-percent jump in components, dairy farmers could gross $0.53 per head per day. For a 500-cow dairy, that would be about $95,400 per year. It may make financial sense, but can it be done?
Absolutely, and here are two examples. On one farm, we saw a 7-percent rise in protein and a 13-percent jump in butterfat since 2003. On another, we gained 4-percent in butterfat and 7-percent in protein. Both herds currently boast 30,000 rolling herd averages. That shows we don’t need to sacrifice milk production to see high components. A variety of factors can hinder progress in improving solid percentages in milk. One of the biggest culprits is heat damage and spoilage of your forages. Heat-damaged protein is unavailable to rumen microbes. Butyric and moldy haylage means you have to feed more protein to give rumen microbes what they need. Inconsistent byproducts and variable feedstuffs prove difficult to balance in a ration as well. My advice: know where your byproducts come from and test them often. It’s good to see the back of your commodity bay every now and then. Clean it out all the way a few times a year. Carbohydrates are important too. Rumen microbes grow most rapidly on starch and sugars, but they need adequate surface area to digest the starch in corn kernels. This places a lot of importance on adequately processing corn grain and silage. Ensiled corn also needs adequate time to “soften.” We also need to make sure we’re providing rumen-healthy diets with limited amounts of unsaturated fats. Amino acid-balanced diets are also crucial in reaching protein goals. Finally, consistency is king. By reducing nutrient variation and paying attention to details, improving component content in milk can be a realistic goal. Call up your Vita Plus consultant
to start talking strategy and develop a plan for your dairy operation. About the author: Dr. Eric Schwab grew up in a rural town in New Hampshire. He attended the University of New Hampshire – Durham, where he received bachelor’s degrees in dairy management and environmental and resource economics in 1998. While working in northeast Wisconsin, he met Dr. Randy Shaver and returned to academia at the University of Wisconsin – Madison to pursue his graduate degrees. In Shaver’s lab, Schwab’s master’s degree research focused on kernel processing and chop length in BMR corn silage. His Ph.D. dissertation focused on B vitamin nutrition and ruminal B vitamin synthesis in lactating dairy cows. In September 2005, Schwab joined Vita Plus on the dairy nutrition and technical services team. He lives in Rice Lake, Wis. with his wife and their two sons.