1. Track changes in forage dry matter % – Remember rations are balanced on a dry matter basis and mixed on an as-fed basis. Monitoring moisture changes in your forages help you add the proper amount of dry matter of each forage. If there’s a drastic change in moisture, maybe it’s time to resample.
2. Closely monitor MUNs – This seems like a given. However there are still processors that don’t supply their patrons with MUNs from every load of milk shipped. I have noticed that if you request MUNs for every load, typically you find little resistance. The proper MUN for every farm may vary. The more accurately the TMR is loaded with more consistent forages and less daily variation in feeding times, the lower your MUN can run without impacting milk production. Your nutritionist has to formulate for the lowest MUN. So if your goal is to run an 8 MUN and within a week your readouts are MUNs of 8-10-8-6-8-9-6, you have to feed to the low MUN of 6, not the average of 8. You would have to feed more protein in this scenario because the cows were short two days.
3. Grind your corn finely – Getting a fine grind on your corn not only makes more energy available to the cow but it also helps you reduce your bypass protein needs. Rumenally available starch will grow more rumen bacteria. Those bacteria have the most ideal amino acid profile of any “feedstuff” available. Those bacteria eventually make their way to the small intestine where they are absorbed. If you grow more bacteria you need less bypass protein.
4. Look to synthetics – It’s well known that lysine and methionine typically are the two most limiting amino acids in a lactating ration. It may be possible to keep the same levels of lysine or methionine in a ration by feeding synthetic amino acids and reducing other bypass protein sources that supply more amino acids than just lysine and methionine.
5. Routine forage sampling – The need for sampling forages may depend on your storage structure. Bags will obviously have more abrupt changes and need to be sampled more regularly. Marking the bags with spray paint during harvest will help alert you to upcoming changes during feed out. There is a little more blending with silos so they likely need to be sampled a little less often. Bunkers and piles will have even less variation. Haylage is most likely to change not only moisture but nutrient content and should be sampled more regularly.
Visit with your consultant to determine the best way to cut feed costs on your farm and find a program that works best for your herd.