The True Cost of Feed Refusal


With feed costs accounting for more than 50% of the total cost of producing milk, dairy producers must be sure to minimize losses due to feed waste and refusal.

On average, each 1% increase in feed refusals costs the dairy 5 to 6 cents per cow per day. While seemingly insignificant, this figure adds up to a $20 loss per cow each year.

In order to minimize these losses, some dairy producers choose to refeed the refusals, either unloading fresh feed on top of it, or incorporating it into a new batch of feed for other cow groups. These practices should be avoided, says Alanna Kmicikewycz, a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University.

“Cows at this stage are vulnerable to metabolic diseases,” Kmicikewycz explains. “Feeding refusals that are variable in nutrient content or contain mycotoxins can impact the cow’s immune system and further exacerbate health problems for both the cow and the calf.”

As an alternative, producers can feed the refusal to older heifers, steers, and beef cattle, offers Kmicikewycz, though spoiled or highly sorted feeds should simply be discarded.



Smith, Amanda. “Feed refusals are a balancing act.” Hoard’s Dairyman.

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