Western & Prairie Dairy Grist - Summer 2022

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Dairy Grist


Dear Friends, After what seemed like a long, relatively cold and variable winter, Spring has sprung and farmers across our country are busy in the fields getting their crops into the ground, evaluating winter kill and fertilizing their winter wheat. As always, high yielding, high quality crops and forages are key to farm profitability and year-round, herd performance. This year however, with fuel, fertilizer…and frankly every other inputs’ costs increasing by double digit percentages, the need for and the importance of “precision farming” both in the field and in the barn has never been greater. This edition of the Dairy Grist is very focused on providing perspectives and strategies to maximize farm profitability during these inflationary times. Now, more than ever, having a total farm plan, developed in collaboration with trusted advisors, having access to accurate on-farm data and agreeing on the right key metrics to monitor and benchmark against will pay big dividends. We believe that Income Over Feed Cost (IOFC) is one of these key metrics and through a couple of the articles below provide some tips and tricks to maximize IOFC accordingly. I trust that you will find this edition of the Dairy Grist helpful and that it will spark beneficial conversations with your Nutrition Consultant and other advisors to your farming operation. With an on-going desire to serve dairy producers in increasingly better ways, we are very pleased to welcome Nikki Campbell to our Ontario Ruminant team, along with Stan Claassen who’s joining our Ontario team as a summer intern. In Manitoba we welcome James Kinley in a summer intern role. We look forward to introducing them to the dairy producers that we are privileged to work with in the respective regions of the provinces. Sincerely, Ian Ross, President & CEO, GVF group of companies


by: NUTRITION DIRECT TEAM Ruminant Nutrtionists, Grand Valley Fortifiers, Nutrition Direct


eed costs and overall operational profitability are front of mind for producers and are making for extremely engaging conversations on farm. Internally, GVF has been collecting and summarizing feed cost data for producers for many years now. For 2021 data, in addition to our usual benchmarks and summaries, we also investigated a case study of comparing some of the differences between the top 20% of herds for Income Over Feed Cost (IOFC) (Total Gross Milk Revenue – Total Feed Costs) and the bottom 20% of herds for IOFC. There are many factors that IOFC does not account for. These factors include whether a producer is currently filling quota, labour efficiency, total herd inventory, or the effectiveness of the reproduction program on farm. What IOFC does bring us is an answer to a specific question when comparing to different ration options or between different herds: Am I currently feeding the most nutritionally efficient milk cow ration right now? If not, is there a profitable path to increasing this specific metric? With this case study, we found that there was an astounding $10/cow/day difference in IOFC when comparing the top 20% group and the bottom 20% group. To put that into context, for two farms both milking 100 cows, that would be a $365,000 difference in profit over the course of a year! So, what are some of the differences, from a nutrition perspective, that lead to this vast difference in profitability between different farms?

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1. Feed Home-Grown Grain: The top 20% of farms for IOFC are more likely (70% vs 50% of farms) to feed homegrown grain (such as high moisture corn or cob meal) rather than purchased energy concentrates such as dry ground corn. This factor is very intuitive as the cost to grow and store grain will be more cost effective than buying it in, resulting in a decreased level of total feed costs for the same nutritional ingredient. Note that for producers without enough land-base to grow their own grains, this is not an easy problem to fix due to the price and scarcity of land. The next point is more attainable for all producers.

2. Feed High Corn Silage Diets: The top IOFC group feeds an average of 65% corn silage diets, as a percentage of total ration forage dry matter. The bottom group tends to be more around 50%. Why go high corn silage for milk cows? Good quality corn silage results in consistent rations with less undigestible fibre (uNDF) and high palatability resulting in higher dry matter intakes which produces more milk and/ or components. Corn silage also brings a highly fermentable source of starch that can fire up the rumen bugs to allow them to build the most cost-efficient protein available, which might even help reduce the amount of purchased protein you need, if the cow can make it herself.

Ian Ross, President & CEO | David Ross, VP & CMO Mark Bowman | Jeff Keunen | Kathleen Shore, Ruminant Nutritionists Mat Schwenker, Layout Editor

3. Harvest High Starch Corn Silage: 2021 Corn Silage tended be higher (40% vs 35% starch) for the top vs bottom IOFC groups. Although 35% starch silage is generally considered a respectable level of starch to get off the field in an average year, the top 20% herds are managing to bring in even more starch into their silage. While the top group is feeding high levels of high starch corn silage paired with modest levels of home-grown grain corn, the bottom group will be buying in large amounts of purchased corn to pair with the low level of medium starch corn silage in their diets.

cornerstone, will result in more IOFC and more profit for your operation. Again, this is due to the double impact forage quality can have in propelling milk to new heights as well as reducing the purchased feed bill. Furthermore, forage is the backbone of a healthy ration for your herd – promoting longevity through optimal rumen fermentation (not to mention high components that come from a healthy rumen). Bottom line – feeding on-farm, well grown feeds is key to on-farm profit. n



Fertilizing Hay Crops 4. Select Corn Silage Varieties with Fibre Digestibility in Mind: For the top IOFC group, last year’s corn silage also contained significantly higher fibre digestibility, as measured by NDFd30hr (predictive of how much energy the cow will get out of the corn silage fibre) and NDFd240hr (predictive of the ultimate gut-filling effect of the corn silage fibre). The top group had corn silage that tested as 60% for NDFd30hr (as a percent of NDF), while the bottom group tested at 55%. For the top group, there is likely an increased emphasis of BMR genetics being utilized, or at least a heightened level of selection of varieties strong on fibre digestibility. As mentioned before, this will relate to improved intakes as well as increased energy from corn silage fibre, allowing for higher energy and higher forage diets to be fed.

Nitrogen deficiency in a corn crop is obvious. We have all seen the bottom leaves of a corn plant turn yellow prematurely and cringe knowing we just left 20-30+ bu/ac on the table. Most people can tell you what their target nitrogen rate is and roughly how many pounds of nitrogen are needed to make a bushel of grain. Planters are outfitted with dry fertilizer systems, manure is applied, maybe we Y-drop late season N and add a foliar. So why do we let our hay fields fend for themselves with little thought into the fertility program? I think the answer is that hay grows no matter and often our yield is so dependent on the weather, we think that yields are out of our control! We typically grow a few more acres than we need to, in order to ensure that we never run out. Some years we end up with “too much” and we tell ourselves we don’t really “need” the hay. The reality is that hay is, in fact, incredibly responsive to management. Besides, who doesn’t need an extra 20 ac available to grow $18 soybeans or $8 corn this year? So, let’s talk about managing hay fertility.

Crop Removal

5. Grow and Cut High RFQ Haylage: Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) is favoured as a metric when discussing haylage quality as it helps to compare quality among variety groups such as straight alfalfa, mixed, or pure grass haylages, which are all perfectly valid variety groups to feed to milk cows. This index is based on factors such as protein, sugars, fibre levels, as well as fibre digestibility. For 2021 first cut haylage, RFQ was significantly higher in the top IOFC group (185 RFQ) vs the bottom group (135 RFQ). Just like corn silage, the top group is getting the ability to deploy these high-quality nutrients and eating potential to drive milk to new heights as well as cutting back on the amount of purchased protein and corn needed to balance. You may get to the end of this list and wonder why so much focus must be spent on some of the most basic elements of providing feed for dairy cows. The answer, based on real data, is quite simply that there is so much at stake. So much profit is on the table by taking on-farm feed quantity and quality seriously. Wherever you are on the range in IOFC, it is highly likely that an increased emphasis on nutritional efficiency, of which forage quality is the

There are two important pieces of information that we need to know in order to determine if we are applying enough fertility to our hay fields. The first is estimated yield so that we can calculate crop removal. Per ton of dry matter, an alfalfa stand removes 12 lb/ac of phosphate and 49 lb/ac of potassium (reference IPNI). For a 4.5 ton crop we are looking at 54 lb phosphate (P) and 220 lb potassium (K). The second measure is any manure that is being applied. It is important to keep track of the application rate as well as to sample manure routinely to ensure an appropriate credit is given. On average, 1000 gal of liquid dairy manure applied in the spring will have approximately 12 lb available N, 5 lb available P, and 21 lb available K. If we do the math, we need approximately 10,000 gallons/ac per year of liquid dairy manure. For a larger barn with more wastewater, that could look closer to 12,000 gallons per year. If we break it down per cut, if hay fields are not getting a minimum of three applications of 3300 gal/ac each time, we are probably shortchanging the hay crop and depleting soil test levels. No manure going on? No sweat. We can apply the balance of crop removal with commercial fertilizer. It takes 23 lb/ac of MAP and 82 lb/ac of potash fertilizer to replace what is taken out by one ton of dry matter. With a yield of 4.5 ton/year, that is 104 lb MAP and 370 lb/ac of potash. Any combinations of manure and commercial fertilizer will work as long as we are not depleting the

Dairy Grist soil test! There are some situations where soil tests may be high and we can draw from them, however the vast majority of soil tests that I have seen on fields coming out of hay are low.

Nitrogen and Sulphur We’ve covered two of the key nutrients involved in hay production. The next two important nutrients are nitrogen (N) and Sulphur (S). We know that it is important to have nitrogen available to first cut stands with a grass component, but what about pure alfalfa stands and subsequent cuts? As we know, alfalfa fixes its own nitrogen. That said, in more recent years we have begun to see a response to Sulphur fertilizer in terms of yield and protein. Manure gives us a nice blend of nitrogen and Sulphur. If we do not have enough manure available, ammonium sulfate is a good option that is readily available in-season. The nitrogen component also gives the grass a boost in-season. If fall fertilizer is part of your program, elemental sulphur is a good, inexpensive option that should be available to the crop the following season. 25-50 lb/ac of actual S with these applications is a good target.

Timing More frequent, lower volume applications are better than one or two large applications that could potentially smother the alfalfa. If field conditions allow, we ideally like to apply the first application in April, then subsequent applications after each cut. Although the first cut will contain more grass than subsequent cuts, our team has still found it beneficial to ensure that second and third cuts receive nitrogen and sulphur to encourage summer grass growth and protein in alfalfa. If you do not have access to manure, consider broadcasting ammonium sulfate after each cut as mentioned. n In Summary • Treat your hay like it’s a cash crop! • Approximately 10,000 gal liquid dairy manure is required to maintain soil test levels • Remember the importance of Sulphur

with BRIAN LLEWELLYN Dairy Specialist, Grand Valley Fortifiers Grand Valley, Ontario


pril 2022. Turbulent times, and it’s a little hard to predict what will come next. As Grand Valley Fortifiers continues to spread its wings across Canada, I know this article will likely be read by farmers who, within a year, have milked cows in near 50-degree temperatures, followed by floods that left their prime cropping land covered in sediment, washed out roads and even flooded barns. Others have struggled last summer through drought, followed by a bitter long winter, and now spring flooding in parts of the prairies. Added to those woes we have soaring input costs, supply issues, carbon taxes, energy supply issues and instability in Eastern Europe with an unpredictable Russian leader. Obviously, conversations when hitting the farms, are rife with questions as to input costs, margins and ‘What’s next?’! Seeing corn and protein prices rise for the last 8 months, my advice has been to look at the farm as part of a larger picture rather than focus just on the price of proteins and corn as dairy inputs. This might be a good time for viable thoughts and ideas regarding complete farm planning.

Many years ago, at college, I was taught there are 4 key factors to farm profitability. Land, labour, capital and expertise. I always argued luck was a very important 5th – if you’ve ever had to work with health issues, disease with the animals or unpredictable weather due to climate change, I think you will agree. Gather your team and set viable benchmarks to meet the challenges. Tangible plans help to calm bank managers. Yes, input costs are up and will be for longer, to levels we haven’t seen before, but is it possible to optimize land use for growing additional corn and beans to offset these higher costs? Are we still rearing too many heifers, taking up valuable land acres that could be cash-cropped? We have written extensively in the Grist about the possibility of winter cropping. Winter triticale and winter rye will regularly exceed 2.5 tonnes dry matter as an extremely digestible dairy-quality feed. Sorghum Sudan grass is being more regularly grown through the summer as a high tonnage dairy crop when taken in several cuts. Nitrogen prices certainly dampen enthusiasm but run the figures through to farm net income to see the larger picture. Growing an extra 10 acres of corn seems expensive, with input figures of $500 per acre before land costs and rent. However, at 5.5 tonnes/ac and $360/tonne, this still leaves sales of $1980/ac or a gross margin of $1480/ac. For soya beans, a conservative 50bu per acre at $22/bu also shows a gross margin of well over $800/ac. Look at those 4th year alfalfa stands and whether they are really going to yield enough to justify their land use. The same applies to multi-year corn. Our Grand Valley Fortifiers Dairy Specialists can help you with assessing your forage needs, so that you can consult with your agronomist for the best planning of field crops. Likewise, use your dairy field rep and veterinarian to come up come up with a fresh approach to a realistic heifer replacement plan. How many heifers should you need each year, and when? Looking at my clients’ DHI numbers for the last year, I see a client with close to 48-liter average milk production running a 25% replacement rate. I have other herds with up to a 42% replacement rate. Each heifer to rear consumes 4.5 tonnes of forage dry matter and costs over $3,000 in total rearing costs. Potentially, this unnecessarily ties down acres of land which, as explained, could be used to grow grains and proteins. Based on data from my clients, the average 3rd lactation cow yields 21% more milk than the 1st lactation heifer and, because she has met her growth potential, will actually produce that milk more efficiently. So why tie the farm up rearing excess heifers? In the fall of 2021, I travelled with a farmer from a well-known herd in Eastern Canada. He fired an equation at me that I hadn’t heard before, but which sums up much of the above very simply. He spoke about the fact that their goal is to produce 1.0kg of butterfat per animal (lactating and replacement) on the farm per day. Their usual output per milk cow is an impressive 1.85kg. They rear 30% of their herd as heifer replacements with 27% completing their first lactation. The dry cow pens hold 15% of the milking herd numbers. Obviously, this is a very well-managed farm. It is good to benchmark, have goals and apply a team approach – working all your advisors together can hopefully result in realistic goals for the farm. As farming changes, so do we at GVF in what we hope is greater knowledge to be able to share with our producers. In the last few years, I have seen a growing number of farmers involve us in cropping questions, working with them to draw up needs for the dairy. Unlike ever before, with current commodity prices, has there been such a challenge to trim farm inefficiencies. Look at pushing yields, if possible, to reduce cow numbers. Limit rearing excess heifers, to release land that could now be put to better use for highly profitable cash cropping and look at your farm enterprise in totality to maximize your farms potential profitability. ■



by: JEREMY PLESMAN Ruminant Sales Coach, Grand Valley Fortifiers Chilliwack, BC


ver the last number of years, our summers in western Canada seem to be extending longer in term and more extreme in range. Everything from record breaking heat to long stretches of drought we seem to continually be having to conquer more challenges with our animals as producers all whilst chasing our high efficiency targets continually. Through research, flies have been shown to have huge economic ramifications not only due to the cost of fly control practices, but also on the drag in production efficiency of our animals. Whether that be milk production, meat production, or fertility. All of these are directly impacted by the reduction in energy due to the time spent not eating but, rather dealing with the flies or

the diseases brought by the flies. Research has given us numbers on the efficacy of garlic supplement for pasture cattle. The numbers are quite impressive at 52% and 56% respectively fewer flies on the groups of cattle with garlic supplementation compared to their control group counter parts on two separate studies. Another meta-analysis of studies calculated the lost economic gain anywhere from 6-26 kg of BW gain/beef cow or approximately $23.00-$100.10 (based on $175.00/CWT) and 139 kg of milk or $132.38 (based on $98.10/HL) over the fly season. (Catangui 1992; Wieman et al. 1992, Campbell et al. 1993; Catangui et al. 1993, 1995, 1997). That is just the average loss of production for these animals not including the treatment costs, management time, or any mortality, to get them through.

running till the first killing frost, usually end of September. Our recommendation is to run garlic in your feed program from May 1 in western Canada to September 30th. The garlic product is a naturally occurring compound from the chemical reaction of sulfurous alliin with the enzyme alliinase to produce allicin. This is the odour exuding compound that the animal exudes through its skin and deters the flies from landing and biting. Once we remove the food source for the flies, they move on and leave the animal in peace. The key to a high efficacy with this is managing the amount of product you are targeting consumption at to your animals BW (bodyweight). The smaller the animal the less they need to consume, but as they grow in BW (and yes breed matters) the more garlic supplement/animal they require. The key is to ensure your target is going to meet your cattle size requirements. The initial data on this product was researched in partnership with the Ministry of Ag in Saskatchewan and found that 2% of their target salt intake was sufficient to see significance in fly deterrent, but that was on mid size framed red angus animals. What we have since found is managing to a % of BW is much more effective for significance on fly deterrent. This correlates better feeding to smaller heifers as well as larger breeds or dairy cattle than a blanket 2% of salt intake that may not be equal to all animal sizes. When you compare the cost of the garlic product to conventional pesticides, the economic gain shines again. The cost of the garlic will run you approximately $0.054/animal/day for a large sized animal, which over the course of the 5 month feeding period will become $8.10/head. Pesticides are stated to be most beneficial or have an effective period of 8 weeks. Based on the same fly control season of 5 months we would require 3 treatments (applications) for the same 150 day period of the fly season at a cost of $0.245/ml. For a large sized animal the recommended dose of 12 ml/animal/treatment (application), the cost would be $8.84/animal. Overall this gives us a slight advantage having a lower cost of ingredient with the garlic product along with no extra management time or treatment time to the producer. As consultants advising to producers on how to maintain maximum health and efficiency of your cattle garlic supplementation for summer fly control has become one of my go to standards, and I have been anything but disappointed. And who doesn’t like having your barn or pasture smelling like pasta night….■

Thought for the Day The Agony of Prayer Luke 22:44 “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” “Prayer is not difficult to understand. It is difficult to do. When was the last time your heart so grieved for those you were interceding for that your entire body agonized along with your mind and heart? (Heb. 5:7).

Garlic has been shown to be a very effective homeopathic route to help your herd navigate the fly season. The best part about garlic supplementation is no extra work or management is required by a producer, it is just an additive added into your feeding regime (full feed, supplement, premix/mineral) and consumed daily by your herd starting 1 month prior to the summer heat and

We are a generation that avoids pain at all costs. This is why there are so few intercessors. How do we become more mature in our prayer life? By praying. When we do not feel like praying is precisely the time we ought to pray. There are no short cuts to prayer. There are no books to read, seminars to attend, or inspirational mottoes to memorize that will transform us into intercessors. This comes only by committing ourselves to pray and then doing so.” Experiencing God Day by Day devotional, Henry T. Blackaby & Richard Blackaby.

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