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Feed & Nutrition

Learn about all aspects of the dairy cow ration, from harvest to storage and balancing additives to forage supplementation.

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With the recent dramatic drop in milk prices coupled with above- average prices for feed, fertilizer and seed, many are questioning or rethinking if they have the most economical feeding program or if there are places where they can cut feed-related costs.

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The development of a whole-farm nutrient balance is the concept that involves balancing the amount of nutrient inputs across an entire operation (fertilizer, animals and feed) and comparing it to the nutrients leaving the operation (milk, meat, crops and manure). This concept applies to all operations, both large and small. In order to comply with regulatory nutrient management plan requirements, larger operations must demonstrate that manure will be handled and applied on an agronomic basis and the operation is designed for a whole-farm balance. For smaller operations that do not have as strict regulatory requirements, efficiently minimizing excess inputs while utilizing manure nutrients is essential for sustainability.

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The concept of whole-farm nutrient management can be easily described as the “active process of making decisions related to nutrients imported (feed and fertilizer) to a farm and those nutrients exported (milk, animals and manure) or lost via air or water.” For many dairies, more nutrients are imported in feed than are exported in milk. Only about 1/4 to 1/3 of the nitrogen and phosphorus a cow consumes is captured in milk. Over time this has resulted in an excess of nitrogen and phosphorus in soil.

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When profit margins tighten, many dairy producers look for ways to reduce expenses.

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With the current economic climate, more and more dairy farmers are often advised that the best remedy is to increase the efficiency with which they use their feeds, but is higher feed efficiency always a good thing?

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Low-carbon feed is a brand new term just beginning to surface in the dairy industry as a result of efforts to reduce dairy’s overall carbon footprint.

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