Put your money in the bank
by TOM WALKER
VERNON – Mike Witt, owner of Witt Precision Ag in Lavington, says the first step to cutting feed costs in winter is to cut waste. Producers need to do their best to combat silage shrink.
“Silage management and your feed-out management are the two low-hanging fruits,” he says. “You are going to lose nutrients as well as volume if you are not taking care when you store your feed.”
The second consideration is feeding waste.
“Are you using feeders or bunks; are you grouping your cows together based on their feed needs; are you watching out for overfeeding?” asks Witt. “You may be leaving wasted hay on the ground for organic matter but that’s a pretty expensive soil supplement.”
Witt gave ranchers a number of hypothetical examples to consider. He was able to compare ingredients by looking at their energy values and suggest some combinations that might save a producer money.
If a rancher had only produced lower-quality hay at 8% crude protein (CP) and 52% TDN, that would be sufficient for cows of good condition only through their second trimester of pregnancy, Witt suggests.
“For a cow in her third trimester, it would be borderline,” he says. “After calving, it would definitely be short of both protein and energy.”
Witt suggests mixing up the feed combination, blending high-quality hay with barley.
“That would give you the best price and nutrition combination to feed after calving.”
Alternatively, a hay and supplement combination could work, too.
In a second example, Witt looked at a rancher with high quality hay of 19% CP and 61% TDN. The herd’s nutritional needs are actually exceeded by feeding this hay and at a high market price of $225 a ton, the rancher could be throwing money away.
“This might be an opportunity to sell that hay, purchase some cheaper feed ingredients and put money in your pocket,” says Witt.
Witt’s suggestions included purchasing some straw to mix with the high-quality hay, limit feeding the cows so they are only getting the minimum feed requirements with little waste, or selling most of the high-quality hay, purchasing cheaper but adequate hay at say14% CP and 57% TDN. Ranchers would only need to supplement this hay with some barley after calving, which could net savings of around $100 per cow.
What about a producer who has good quality hay – say 15% CP and 57% TDN?
The combination would meet third trimester needs, but would be marginal after calving.
Witt briefly discussed some other options ranchers might consider.
A mix of cereal silage and alfalfa silage would be around $30 less, for example, while corn silage, cereal silage and straw would be $40 less. Combining corn silage, cereal silage and good quality hay could see a cost savings of over $80 per animal.
“It’s all about finding a balance between what you grow and what your cows need,” says Witt. “You may find yourself changing your forage production.”
Vol. 105 Issue 3
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
Province boosts ag spending
It’s a draw!
Editorial: Vice grip
Back Forty: Snow days make good days for seed selection
Viewpoint: Farmers need to prepare for annual snow melt
Smooth start to season as foreign workers arrive
Sidebar: Province mulls piece rates
Late winter has some Okanagan growers on edge
Ag show attracts near-record attendance
Ag Briefs: Traceability funding available for producers
Ag Briefs: Cattlemen’s launches webinar series
Ag Briefs: Grant winner announced
Labour remains a priority for fruit growers
Dairy, aquaculture take home awards at gala
Farmers need to prepare for uncertainty
Ag critic listens to concerns at farmers’ institute
Growers are responsible for workers’ safety
Robotic milkers sized up during dairy tour
Safe, high-quality silage depends on preparation
Diversification makes orchard a landmark
Ranchers need to match forage with herd needs
Producers question new Indigenous rights law
Hosting TRU students a way to give back
Livestock co-op provides selling, buying options
Sidebar: Market set to stay steady
Research: Bluetongue outbreaks expected to increase
Filling a niche for gourmet mushrooms
Regulations, housing key issues in Langley
Sheep producers seeing value in genetic program
Above and beyond
Vegetation fundamental to farms, landscape
Studies continue on forage, corn crop pests
4-H BC leader singled out
Growers go with the grain of beer revival
Agri-tourism has plenty of room for growth
Rose stem girdler poses threat to cranberries
Site prep critical for healthy hazelnut orchards
Sidebar: BC renewal program opens up
Wannabe: Renewal comes with a new generation of farmers
Woodshed: Deborah and Doug McLeod turn up the heat
A good place to meet up
Jude’s Kitchen: Celebrate spring by eating outside