Valuing feed ingredients for dairy cows
Differentiate between costs and values to eke out a bargain as cereal prices shoot up again
It is important to distinguish between the value of feedstuffs and their costs. The cost of a homegrown feedstuff includes land charge, fertiliser, contract charges, handling and storage, but the value of that feedstuff to the dairy farmer is determined by its price relative to the alternative energy and protein sources available, eg barley and soya or a balanced compound feed.
Relative Value of Feed ingredients
By taking the prices of barley and soya at any point in time, a value can be attributed to a unit of energy and a unit of protein, which is then used to value other energy and protein feeds (see Table 1, below left).
Teagasc has an interactive calculator called 'Relative Value of Feeds' on the Teagasc client site (www.client.teagasc.ie). It is important that farmers complete this exercise at a local level because of the variation in ingredient price from one area to the next and the volatility in the market.
Cereals are expensive this year and, while the inclusion levels used last year were high, there will be a greater blend of starch and digestible sources used in compounds this year. Maize grain (flaked, ground or rolled) is expensive this year, with prices of €250-270/t being quoted. It is valued at 5-8pc higher than barley or wheat and is therefore poor value this year.
There are three basic options in terms of digestible fibre sources -- citrus pulp, beet pulp and soya hulls. Both unmolassed beet pulp and soya hulls have slightly higher PDIE (protein) content than citrus pulp. However, soya hulls is a moderate energy feed and, while it is reasonable value, its inclusion should be limited where a high-energy diet is required. It works well in ad-lib diets for finishing cattle.
Protein feeds are expensive, with soyabean meal at €360-380/t. Distillers grains represent the best value in terms of protein feeds this year but will require the addition of a second protein source for compound feeds with a 16pc crude protein or greater.
Relying on soya only as a protein source is adding significantly to the cost of a compound feed. Rapeseed meal is poor value as a protein feed this year and will not feature a lot in compound feeds.