Feeding commodity feeds to dairy cows is not a new concept. Feed companies have used commodity feeds in rations as a source of nutrients for years. However, the use of commodity feeds in home-mixed rations may be new to many dairy producers. Commodity feeds include traditional feeds as well as by-products from a variety of sources, including grain processing and manufacturing of human foods. Many factors should be considered before beginning a commodity feeding program, even if the program only includes one commodity.
The primary reason producers use commodity feeds is to reduce feed cost. Feed accounts for 50 to 60 percent of the total cost of producing milk, so anything that reduces feed cost and improves the bottom line is worth considering. Some commodity feeds provide nutrients in a specific form, such as undegradable protein (UIP) or highly digestible fiber, that may be needed to optimize nutrient balance in a ration. Other highfiber commodity feeds may be used to extend forage supplies during a drought or when animal numbers are increased without any increase in forage production.
There are disadvantages of commodity feeds that producers should consider as well. A commodity feeding program requires additional time for purchasing and arranging delivery and for formulating and mixing rations. Specialized storage and feeding facilities needed for certain commodity feeds may require construction of additional buildings or equipment purchases, both of which will require additional investments. If a commodity feed is only available for a short time or in insufficient amounts, it is questionable whether changing the current feeding program would be justifiable. These factors must be taken into consideration before beginning a commodity feeding program.
"PB1577-Using Commodity Feeds in Dairy Rations," The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, PB1577-2M-2/96 E12-2015-00-161-96, http://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_agexani/7