Rise in feed costs leads farmers to alternatives

FRESNO, Calif.

The drop in temperatures has these dairy cows in Riverdale comfortable enough to eat more. Corn is a staple in dairy feed but prices keep soaring.

"Corn, traditionally, or last year at this time, was about 180-dollars per ton. Right now it's 300-dollars a ton so you're looking at a 60-percent increase in cost just for corn," said University of California Dairy Advisor Jerry Higginbotham.

Corn can't be replaced, but to offset rising corn prices dairy operators like Jamie Bledsoe have added orange pulp and fruit by-products to the feed mix. Typically the cows eat alfalfa hay, corn, cottonseed, silage, and almond hulls.

"Yes we feed everything here. Citrus, culled fruit, pomegranates. We've fed them all to our cows," said Riverside Dairy operator Jamie Bledsoe.

The dairy industry has rebounded after several years of depressed prices caused hundreds of California dairies to shut down.

"Our dairymen are just starting to come out of that slump right now, the milk prices are rebounding but feed costs haven't lowered at all."

Bledsoe says high quality alfalfa is at an all-time high at $300 a ton. Bledsoe attributes the rise in corn prices to increased exports and the ethanol industry.

"Because corn is being used for ethanol production, pretty much the house mother can go every day look up what a barrel of oil is worth -- watch whether it rises or falls and her food prices and food costs are going to match that."

Bledsoe said whenever he makes changes in his feed mix, he has a nutritionist make sure the cows' milk production doesn't change.

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