New tool helps calculate the cost-benefit of an accelerated feeding program for dairy calves

Contact: Victor Cabrera, 608-265-8506, vcabrera@wisc.edu
Ken Bolton, 715-877-1420, kenneth.bolton@ces.uwex.edu
Patrick Hoffman, 715-387-2523, patrick.hoffman@ces.uwex.edu

If you’re presently using or considering using an accelerated feeding program for dairy calves you might want to first run your numbers through a new computer model created by University of Wisconsin-Extension specialists to evaluate whether or not an accelerated feeding program will provide you with an economic advantage.

University of Wisconsin-Extension dairy specialists Victor Cabrera, Ken Bolton and Patrick Hoffman developed the “Cost-Benefit of Accelerated Liquid Feeding Programs for Dairy Calves” which calculates the difference in costs and benefits of using accelerated feeding programs compared to conventional feeding programs.

The online tool and its full documentation are available at http://www.uwex.edu/ces/dairymgt: Management Tools. This tool allows the user to calculate the cost-benefit at weaning and at calving as well as the break-even milk amount needed to pay for calf and heifer feed.

Multiple trials have demonstrated that accelerated calf feeding programs result in faster, leaner and more efficient calf growth. However, there is little evidence that these calf feeding programs have an economic benefit over conventional calf feeding programs. Accelerated calf feeding programs are more expensive than conventional calf feeding programs because of additional costs to formulate accelerated milk replacers and because accelerated milk replacers are fed at higher feeding rates.

The additional costs need to be evaluated against potential economic benefits such as shorter weaning periods, reduced starter consumption, higher live weight gain during preweaning, younger ages to first calving and enhanced milk production during lactation.

The “Cost-Benefit of Accelerated Liquid Feeding Program for Dairy Calves” computer model allows for evaluation by using user-defined farm and market parameters. The model includes cost-benefit advantage summaries calculated as net present values comparing accelerated versus conventional heifer raising programs at weaning and at freshening as well as the number of hundredweight of milk needed to break-even on the feed investment in heifer rearing.

Costs are calculated as the sum of feeding and maintenance costs. The potential benefits of enhanced milk production because of accelerated feeding programs are not included, although the amount of milk that a first calf heifer needs to produce in order to cover her raising cost is calculated for both conventional and accelerated programs. 

For more information about this tool or to use this tool please visit http://www.uwex.edu/ces/dairymgt: Management Tools.

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