The DairyCents Mobile App was released a little over a year ago with great reception. The response for farm specific income over feed cost (IOFC) provided in the app was overwhelmingly positive, so the Penn State Extension Dairy Team just released the second installment: DairyCentsPro. There is now a version for producers and one for consultants to use with clients.
New additions include farm specific IOFC calculations and feed management metrics that can be monitored over time. The market based IOFC and Feed Prices (Figure 1) are identical to the original DairyCents. The producer version allows data to be entered and tracked over time for one farm. The consultant version allows for multiple farms and the opportunity for their clients to share their information with them. The producer has to allow their consultants to access their data first and it can be revoked any time right from their device.
The idea behind sharing information from the producer to the consultant is that often the producer is making adjustments to their forage source, purchased feeds, rations, groups of animals, etc. that the consultant may not be aware of until they are on the farm again. When calculating IOFC or any number of metrics for a dairy, it is incredibly important to have the most accurate data not only for making sound decisions based on that information but also for credibility back to the dairy producer. Sharing this information through DairyCentsPro can increase effective communication between the many people working on or for a dairy.
Income Over Feed Cost
Income over feed cost is an effective tool and has been widely discussed by Penn State and other groups. DairyCentsPro will allow greater use of the tool by both consultants and producers. Using the information from IOFC can help increase profitability. If IOFC is low, additional investigation into feed management can help determine opportunities for improvement.
The feed management portion of DairyCentsPro calculates dry matter intake efficiency, phosphorus intake and excretion, and milk nitrogen efficiency. These simple calculations are not new to the dairy industry; however, DairyCentsPro packages them in a convenient app that can be monitored over time and shared.
Dry Matter Intake Efficiency
Dry mater intake efficiency (DMIE), also referred to as feed efficiency (FE), is a simple calculation measuring the pounds of energy corrected milk (ECM) produced per pound of dry matter (DM) consumed. This simple, yet under-utilized, metric should be monitored on dairy farms to potentially improve production, profitability, and nutrient management (Maulfair, et al. 2011). Obtaining higher efficiencies is not only important during times of higher feed costs and tighter margins but farms with limited forage inventories and land base also need to be cognizant of home raised and purchased feed utilization as well as the amount of nutrients being excreted.
The example shown in figure 2 is a group of early lactation cows less than 90 days in milk. The group is consuming 50 pounds of DM and only producing 81 pounds of milk (78 lbs. ECM). Based on the recommended range of adequate DMIE (M. Hutjens, University of Illinois), this group is on the low end of the benchmark. Unfortunately, there isn’t an app that can magically tell you why the DMIE is low; further investigation the old fashioned way (i.e. human expertise) of forages, transition cow health and diets, facilities and more would be required to determine the cause of the lower DMIE.
Phosphorus Intake and Excretion
The phosphorus (P) requirements of lactating cows at different stages of lactation and production levels are highly debated. The National Research Council (NRC) (2001) recommends ranges based on production level shown in figure 3. Phosphorus excretion estimations are debated and questioned to an even greater extent. The excretion estimation is based on a standardized equation accepted as the best information available to date (Nennich, 2005). Phosphorus is recycled efficiently within the cow which adds another layer of complexity. The P intakes and excretion estimation should be used a baseline to monitor changes within a particular herd. If the P intake estimation varies greatly from the recommended range, further evaluation of the diet and feedstuffs should be conducted. Overfeeding P will have a negative impact on the environment overtime and could be costing the farm in unnecessary P supplementation.
Nitrogen (N) efficiency is a simple estimate based on DMI, ration crude protein, milk production and milk N. Increasing N efficiency can decrease the amount of N excreted from dairy cows and as a result decrease ammonia emissions. Purchased protein supplementation is also expensive and should be utilized as efficiently as possible to maximize profitability. Protein or N utilization and ration balancing is complex and has to consider a number of things such as all the different protein and carbohydrate fractions. If N efficiency is not inline for a herd, further analysis of the forages and feed sources will provide additional insight.
There isn’t one number on a dairy farm that can predict profitable production. Measuring and monitoring multiple metrics including IOFC, DMIE, milk N efficiency and P intake/excretion can help in making key decisions on the farm. DairyCentsPro allows producers and consultants to monitor and share this information in order to determine areas of opportunity for improvement. Monitoring data is the first step to determine these opportunities but solutions come from working through and investigating problem areas. Increasing communication between producers and key on-farm advisors will only accelerate this process of effectively increasing profitable production.
The Penn State Extension Dairy Team’s mobile app DairyCentsPro-Producer and Consultant versions may be downloaded through iTunes and will be available for Android devices through the Google Play Store in the future.
For more information about these topics and more, visit extension.psu.edu/dairycents or extension.psu.edu/dairynutrition or contact Rebecca White at raw43<\@>psu.edu, 814-863-3917.