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Methods to Capitalize on Record Milk Fat


2022 hummed a different tune with higher milk prices compared to the previous year’s lackluster mailbox prices. While milk prices have dipped from this summer’s peak, spot butter prices have soared. Earlier this month, milk fat paid to dairy farmers hit a new record level at $3.24 per lb.


As producers closely watch the markets, many question how they can capitalize on record butterfat levels and increase their bottom line.


According to Isaac Salfer, assistant professor of dairy nutrition at the University of Minnesota, the butterfat trend has increased over the years with the average bulk tank fat test of 4.25% in January, up 0.13% from last year’s average.




Dr. Mike Hutjens, Professor Emeritus with the University of Illinois in Champaign, says consider using DHI records to strategically plan.


“Review the fat level by lactation number and days in milk. You might discover weak links and future opportunities,” he says.


Hutjens says that producers should also review their current feed ration for levels of NDF, lignin, starch, sugar, soluble fiber and forage quality based on NDFD.




“Increasing milk yield while maintaining current milk fat test results in more total pounds of milk fat which builds the milk check,” he says. “However, increasing milk fat test while experiencing less milk volume does not build the milk check.”


Other tools that producers should investigate, according to Hutjens includes:


Increase Volatile Fatty Acid Production:

  • Increase forage level (50 to 55% forage)

  • Increase forage digestibility (higher NDFD)

  • Increase dry matter intake providing more microbial substrate

  • Avoid SARA with rumen pH over 5.8 (rumen environment stability)

  • Add rumen buffers and yeast products to stabilize rumen environment)

Increasing preformed fatty acids:

  • Add lipid (fats/oils) to the diet (normal 2.5% fatty acids to 5.5% fatty acids

  • Oilseeds such as fuzzy cottonseed and soybean seeds are more economical.

  • Add rumen protected fatty acids (cost can be limiting on profitability)

  • Restrict PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) to < 400 grams from all sources (corn silage and grain are high in PUFA) as it can drop milk fat test based on Cornell data.

  • Mobilized body fat as NEFA (non-esterified fatty acids) in early lactation can increase milk fat test but is borrowing from the animal’s energy bank and has metabolic risk.

  • Genetic selection for pounds of milk fat, not for fat percent as it lowers milk yield with fewer pounds of fat sold. Hutjens says this option is a two-year plan and not a quick fix to boost butterfat levels.

Whether your herd is struggling with milk fat depression, or you are looking to capture additional value from your milk with these record butterfat prices, these tips can increase milk fat in dairy cows. Visit with your herd nutritionist about what else you can do to boost butterfat levels in your herd. Although, according to Hutjens, milk protein value may be back higher than milk fat after the holidays.


KAREN BOHNERT

September 19, 2022


dairyherd.com