January 29, 2009

Contacts: Larry Chase, Cornell University, 607-255-2196; Rick Grant, W.H. Miner Institute, 518-846-7121; Cornell Cooperative Extension dairy and farm business management educators: Clinton/Essex County: Anita Deming, 518-962-4810; Franklin County, Carl Tillinghast, Jessica Prosper, 518-483-7403; Jefferson County: Ron Kuck, Molly Ames, 315-788-8450; Lewis County: Frans Vokey, Peggy Murray, 315-376-5270; St. Lawrence County: Brent Buchanan; 315-379-9192

NNY Project Evaluating Factors Affecting Milk Premiums Expands Statewide;
Regional Farm Professionals Suggesting Ways to Add Dairy Income in 2009

A Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project to evaluate the factors that bring milk check premiums to farmers is expanding statewide. A 2005 report by Dr. Mark Stephenson of Cornell University’s Program on Dairy Markets and Policy showed that dairy farmers in Northern New York consistently received the lowest milk price per hundredweight (cwt) and that improving the production of milk components, such as milk fat and protein, could add premium-based income. (See the Growing the NNY Milk Supply Fact Sheet online at www.nnyagdev.org/nnydairy.htm)

In 2009, with funding from Cornell University, dairy farmers, Cornell researchers and Cooperative Extension educators will add farms from across New York State to a database built with the evaluation of feed, water and milk samples from 52 Holstein dairy herds in Northern NY’s Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties).

Project leader and Cornell University Professor of Animal Science Larry E. Chase says, “With additional data, we are hoping to see significant trends that might provide insight into areas where production practice adjustments can be made to increase components. Milk components are critically important in determining the size of producers’ milk checks, and a large number of factors affect component levels. Our work with dairy farmers in Northern New York has provided a basis to begin learning why component levels differ so much from one herd to another there.”

For farmers ready to begin improving their opportunities for milk premiums now, Richard J. Grant, president of the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute at Chazy, NY, says, some feeding programs adjustments can bring positive results in just two weeks’ time.

“Milk protein and milk fat dictate the value of milk. Milk fat test is impacted by many feeding and management factors and is easily manipulated. Boosting milk protein percentage is more difficult, but it can be done,” says Grant, who holds a Ph.D. in Ruminant Nutrition from Purdue University. “The feeding program and the feeding environment must deliver the needed nutrients for a cow’s mammary gland to synthesize milk.”

Grant suggests that if farmers find the milk protein levels of their cows’ milk are low, they should evaluate the sources of amino acids needed by the mammary gland to make milk protein. Sources of amino acids for milk protein include microbial protein synthesis that accounts for more than 60 percent of the total amino acids needed plus dietary sources of rumen undegraded protein.

“Maximizing microbial protein synthesis is always the most economical way to improve milk protein. Farmers can do this by optimizing feed and energy intake that drive microbial growth. Make sure cows are getting adequate physically-effective fiber to avoid rumen acidosis. Provide adequate rumen fermentable carbohydrate in the feed ration, and add 2 to 4 percent sugar for a total of 4-6 percent in the ration dry matter,” Grant says.

Grant suggests using a computer-based amino acid model, such as Dairy NRC 2001, CPM-Dairy, or Amino Cow, to determine if adding protected amino acids is indicated. Lysine and methionine are considered as first limiting amino acids. If protected amino acids are supplemented, milk production and/or milk components can respond within two weeks.

Grant says, “Increasing milk fat and protein depends on getting numerous feeding aspects right. As we head into the winter feeding months, now is a great time to evaluate your rations with your nutritionist to maximize the value of the milk your cows produce.”

If farmers find that their milk’s milk fat percentage is too low, the following practices should be considered to help raise milk fat levels:
• Limit polyunsaturated fatty acids as free oil (not contained in an intact seed such as corn oil in distillers grain)
• Feed more saturated fat sources
• Feed recommended levels of oilseed (< 4-5 lb/cow/day)
• Increase forage level
• Increase forage particle size or length
• Add sodium bicarbonate buffer at 0.75 percent of the ration dry matter to help raise milk fat if rumen pH is low
• Shift from high-moisture, pelleted, or steam-flaked corn to dry corn if starch levels are high
• Shift to total mixed ration
• Feed more frequently and push up feed more often
• Reduce feed sorting.

Other factors that may be lowering milk fat levels include:
• Higher milk yield (may be causing lower milk fat by dilution)
• Loss of body condition
• Starch levels over ~28 percent of ration dry matter
• Rumen acidosis (may be lowering milk fat with higher milk protein)
• Improper milking procedure.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County Dairy Educator Ron Kuck says, “If producers can successfully apply prescribed feeding management practices to increase milk production by 1-2 pounds of milk per cow, to improve milk fat by 0.1 points and increase milk protein by 0.05 points, the farm milk blend price could increase by 30 to 55 cents per hundredweight.”

Fact sheets and research reports on dairy practices can be found online on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program at www.nnyagdev.org. The Program is a farmer-driven research, education and outreach program helping farmers with production and profitability across New York’s six northernmost counties: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence. # # #