Is the cheapest hay always going to save me money?

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With all signs pointing to opening prices being reduced, farming business’ are looking at where they can save money to ensure they are still running a profitable business at the end of the day. As bought in inputs, grain, hay and fertiliser are the biggest costs to a dairy business and with milk prices looking to decrease, farmers look at reducing input cost as a way to save money. But is it really saving you money?

Currently in the South West, we are seeing a climate where grass growth is limited, rain was received too late and now it is getting cold. Combined with this, many farmers have low stocks of quality hay and silage therefore creating a situation where feed has to be bought in. Many farmers buy inputs based on price and not based on quality. This has a major impact on DMI and the ability for the cow to receive enough energy and protein to reach her potential.

Maximising dry matter intake (DMI) is the goal to ensure the cow can reach peak production without using the stored energy reserves she has on her back. If this is not the case, we will see the cow lose weight and have difficulty getting back in calf. This is why it is so important to select high quality feeds that the cow can fully utilise.

Two different scenarios are presented below to demonstrate the importance of DMI and quality feeds.  Milk price is calculated based on a winter price of 37 C/Lt.

As you can see above, buying the cheapest pasture hay available may not be the best option at the end of the day. Although it does not cost as much up front ($1.58/cow less), you are forgoing income of $1.76. If we assume both scenarios are running 200 cows with fixed cost of $150,000 the two scenarios look like this.

Therefore the cheaper hay has increased the overall cost of producing one litre by 2 cents and reduced the net profit by a whopping 40%.

Other major consequences are that the cows will not reach their maximum potential and have lower DMI due to fibre levels becoming too high. Further to this she will not have enough energy to be on a positive weight gain in early lactation leading to a reduction in calf rates, lower peak production and therefore less milk in the vat.

Further to the above, when purchasing hay always calculate the Cost of nutrient on a DM basis. No two hays are the same and the one you pay $10/T more for may be worth the extra cost.

From the above calculations, it can be assessed that vetch 2 is better value then vetch 1. Although it is $10/T dearer, it actually works out cheaper due to the fact it has higher energy and protein levels. On top of this, fibre levels are lower resulting in the cow being able to consume more feed increasing overall DMI.

When deciding what hay to buy, ask your technical & Sales representative from Reid Stockfeeds as they can perform an analysis on different hays to ensure they fit your cow’s diet. This will also ensure you receive the correct grain in the dairy to help maximise your income through a professional approach to feeding.

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