Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

 

    
 

















 


Butterfat & Pasture


By Bill Casey



The following is a farmer observation by Bill Casey, an organic dairyman in Central New York. The representation of information is not a project of NODPA , any land grant college institution, SARE grant, but merely a compilation of information by an individual. Bill can be reached at 315-683-5674 or bill5308@aol.com.

With the changing of the Federal Milk Marketing orders over the last few years, producing milk components has surfaced as an important way to boost the milk check for those dairymen who have been able to elevate the butterfat, protein and milk solids. Grazing farmers have long suffered a butterfat depression when heavily depending on rotational grazing. While working for Cornell Cooperative Extension over the last few years, I was surprised at the lack of research and knowledge on how to hold on to or boost components while rotationally grazing cows.

It was never my intention to breed my herd merely for butterfat and protein and I had never felt that the Northeast Order would be paying a premium for protein. Well, component pricing is here and it is even more important to the pay price of the milk check. As I elected to start milking again and choose to ship to CROPP (Organic Valley), the opportunity to be paid to produce components provided the incentive to feed my cows to produce as many components during the typical 200 day grazing. A typical CROPP milk check includes the following basis for payment: butterfat ($1.77/#), protein ($1.62/#), other solids (total solids minus protein $1.206/#), organic premium (depending on the time of year and regional location), and a premium for low PI and somatic cell counts. Therefore, not being able to produce at least the average pounds of butterfat could significantly reduce a producer's pay.

Many small producers like myself, don't have the advantage of a total mixed ration (TMR) or enough ingredients to produce a suitable mix. I use a baleage and grain supplementation system to augment my intensive-grazing program. A typical feeding program consists of bringing the cows into the tie stall barn on approximately 5 pounds dry matter 3rd cutting baleage (harvested just a little tougher than normal but still with great flavor and palatability). This is followed by 5 pounds dry matter grain (20% roasted soybean and the rest a mix of barley and corn and associated minerals). Grain is not fed to the cows until they have eaten most of their baleage. Daily cow intake would be 10 pounds of baleage (20 pounds as fed) and 10 pounds of grain (11 pounds as fed) and the balance is pasture. I have assumed that the cows eat 30 pounds dry matter from pasture, but this will vary depending on the quality of pasture and the weather. In the event that a pasture is super lush and tender, a slice of dry hay prior to leaving the barn will help lower the pasture consumption

Below I have put together a spreadsheet of my herd's performance before and during the pasture season. When attempting to calculate how your herd is doing, it is important not to just look at the pounds of milk produced per day or the percent butterfat on your quality report. To hold a uniform measure it is best to calculate a pound/day production of your components. Use your herd's daily production (pounds in the tank divided by the # of cows) times the percentage of butterfat/protein/or other solids for a better comparison. Note the drop in components we have realized after making the switch from roasted soybeans to tofu byproduct feed supplied by my feed dealer without telling me.

Production for 2002 at the Casey Farm

Date
DIM
#/cow/day
BF
# BF/cow/d
Protein
# P/cow/d
Solids
# solids/cow/d
3/3 1 59.3 3.96% 2.35 3.05% 1.81 5.75% 3.41

3/14

1 56.1 3.66% 2.05 2.89% 1.62 5.81% 3.26

3/19

1 54.7 3.79% 2.07 2.92% 1.60 5.80% 3.17

3/26

1 54.4 3.95% 2.15 2.89% 1.57 5.74% 3.12
4/2 121 55.0 3.81% 2.10 2.91% 1.60 5.75% 3.16
4/16 cows started on rotational pastures      
4/18 138 53.5 3.67% 1.96 2.82% 1.51 5.81% 3.11
4/23 143 60.0 3.79% 2.27 2.87% 1.72 5.81% 3.49
5/2 152 58.5 3.77% 2.21 3.06% 1.82 5.71% 3.34
5/12 162 59.4 3.41% 2.03 3.06% 1.82 5.71% 3.39
5/16 166 57.2 3.68% 2.11 3.07% 1.76 5.80% 3.32
5/28 178 60.8 3.59% 2.15 3.05% 1.85 5.74% 3.49
6/3 183 59.8 3.58% 2.14 2.98% 1.78 5.76% 3.44
6/9 189 57.2 3.60% 2.06 2.93% 1.68 5.71% 3.27
6/15 Tofu byproduct supplied in lieu of roasted soybeans  
6/17 197 57.0 3.44% 1.96 3.04% 1.73 5.73% 3.27
6/27 207 51.1 3.91% 2.00 3.04% 1.55 5.90% 3.01
7/1 211 52.0 3.46% 1.79 3.03% 1.58 5.70% 2.96

(1) days in milk information not available for this period.


 



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