Feeding programs that minimize their costs while meeting the dairy cow’s nutritional needs are basic to attaining the cow’s genetic potential to produce milk.

Furthermore, those diets must optimize the health and reproductive performance of cows.

In addition, these rations are formulated for the environment (to meet the nitrogen and phosphorus needs of the cow) without feeding them excess amounts. These days, achieving these goals, which do not result in immediate financial rewards, is a tall task.

As dairy managers evaluate the costs of the diets during times of escalating feed costs, they need to base those decisions on income over feed costs, not feed costs alone. Spending a little more in feed cost may improve profit if the cows produce more milk, rebreed more quickly and remain healthy.

Despite despairingly low milk prices during the last couple of years, the industry’s response is evident on one key point: Never give up milk.

Today, even though milk prices are on the rise, so are feed inputs, with corn leading the way. So with guarded optimism, the industry forges ahead in an arduous effort to remain sustainable. Since feed represents 50 percent to 60 percent of the cost of producing milk, here are some ways to reduce feed costs and maximize returns: