An Economic Strategy to Raise Dairy Heifers
This research was published and written by Eric Hatungimana, Ph.D. University of New Hampshire.
Wet brewers’ grains (WBG), the residues of the brewery industry, are potential alternative feed sources that may replace soybean- and corn-based concentrates due to their high protein and digestible fiber content. This was concluded after a study that was recently conducted at the Fairchild Teaching and Research Center of the University of New Hampshire. Raising dairy heifers is often the second or third most costly enterprise on a dairy farm because of the absence of income from birth to the first parturition. Therefore, feeding strategies that would reduce production costs without sacrificing the growth performance of heifers are much needed. Limit-feeding is a strategy that uses high digestible and dense nutrient feed sources in a controlled feeding environment, with an emphasis on feed efficiency, reducing daily ration costs, and minimizing manure output. For more information please see the Limit-Feeding Fact Sheet on the UNH Cooperative Extension website.
In this research, yearling dairy heifers weighing on average 792.5 lb. were limit-fed diets containing 0, 10, or 20% WBG at 2.35% body weight (BW). Diets were formulated to contain 15% crude protein (CP), and 1.03 Mcal/lb. of dry matter (DM). Heifers remained in the experiment for 12 weeks. Feed ingredients used in the experiment are presented in Table 1.
We found that feeding diets containing 20% WBG to dairy heifers resulted in similar growth performance as heifers fed diets containing soybean- and corn-based concentrates.
From the economic standpoint, feeding diets containing 20% WBG to dairy heifers was more economical than feeding diets containing soybean-and corn-based concentrates. The cost of the diet containing 20% WBG was $0.09 / lb. of dry matter compared to $0.11/lb. of dry matter for the diet containing conventional concentrates. The cost to produce 1 lb. of average daily gain (ADG) was $0.81 for heifers fed the diet containing 20% WBG, compared to $1/lb. of ADG for heifers fed the diet containing conventional concentrates. In general, limit feeding has the potential to increase feed efficiency and reduce fecal output. Moreover, limit feeding diets containing WBG up to 20% would be an ideal strategy to reduce feed cost when raising dairy heifers, and this can save up to $0.42/head/day.
This research was accepted by the Journal Translational Animal Science.