Seven-dollar corn has dairy producers in Missouri and across the nation looking for ways to cut costs. One overlooked option for saving money, enough to affect the profit margin, is using grass instead of grain or silage to grow replacement heifers.
"Dairy producers must look at every means to trim costs," says Joe Horner, University of Missouri Extension dairy economist. Horner is one of the MU organizers of the biennial national Dairy Grazing Conference held in Missouri.
A major theme of the 2011 conference, July 6-8, in Joplin, will be cutting costs for heifer development.
"Raising heifers on rotational grazing systems will be the subject of one talk and two farm tours," Horner says. "High-quality forage with well-managed pastures can cut purchases of grain and concentrate. That can save hundreds of dollars per heifer."
On high-quality forage, heifers grow to optimal size and weight at calving time in 24 months of age. Holstein heifers must gain 1.8 pounds per day from birth to calving to keep herd replacements on schedule. Smaller crossbred heifers must gain 1.4 pounds per day.
Dairy budgets show that Missouri producers typically spend hundreds of dollars on grain to raise replacements. At today's feed prices, $200 per heifer could be trimmed with good grazing. "Dairy farms usually have almost as many heifers on the farm as milking cows," Horner says. "With today's feed costs, that really adds up."
Dennis Turner, of Heifer Haven, Hartville, will speak on "Managing Dairy Heifer Profitability in a Pasture System." He raises commercial heifers on contract for dairy-herd owners. Turner, also designated as a Missouri Master Farmer in 2010, will appear on the program, July 6, at the Holiday Inn Convention Center, Joplin.
Educational farm tours
On July 7, one of four featured farm tours will be at Friend Heifer Ranch, Aurora. This operation raises replacements for New Zealand milking herds located in southwest Missouri.
"New Zealanders have a way of cutting almost all grain from their heifer development," Horner says. "Intensive management includes growing quality forages and rotating to fresh grazing paddocks about every day. Quality grass can meet the nutritional needs of growing heifers."
On July 8, Denis Turner will open his management-intensive grazing operation for tours by registered participants. He has 300 acres of improved pastures with capacity for 600 replacements. In addition to feeding, he offers health, nutrition and reproductive protocols, including artificial insemination.
Horner says Turner was one of the first dairymen in the state to switch to managed grazing. "The first use of rotational grazing was for raising heifers," Horner recalls. "Then milking-herd owners picked up the idea of grazing to cut dairy-cow feed costs."
Much of the grazing conference will be on how to grow and manage quality grass that supports milk production.
The conference topics should appeal to more than just dairy graziers, Horner adds. "Every producer benefits from learning to cut costs," he says. "We'd like to see a good turnout from area producers. We expect producers from Ireland, Australia and New Zealand to attend."
Go to http://agebb.missouri.edu/dairy/ for registration and details.
Fees are $150 per person with an added $100 per person from the same farm. Registrations can be made by mail, fax or phone.
After June 20, registration will cost an added $25. Members of the Missouri Dairy Association will be reimbursed $100 per farm. The fee includes three meals, trade show and tour tickets. Lodging is at the Joplin Holiday Inn.
Source: MU Cooperative Media Group