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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ohio State University Software Tool Can Help Dairy Producers Manage Feed Costs

April 8, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With more livestock feedstuffs than corn and soybean grains available to Ohio dairy producers, finding the bargains while managing a balanced diet can be a challenge. As the industry faces a dire economic situation, an Ohio State University computer software program is available to help alleviate some unnecessary management costs.

SESAME, a Windows-based program created by Ohio State animal scientists, estimates the break-even prices of up to 140 types of feedstuffs based on their nutrient content -- metabolizable energy (ME), rumen degradable protein (RDP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), etc. -- according to current market prices.

Normand St-Pierre, software developer and an OSU Extension dairy management specialist, said the software could be used to help producers determine which feedstuffs are bargains and which are overpriced.

"There has been so much more visibility in the last six months with feedstuffs and their costs because of the economy," said St-Pierre, who also holds a research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "The good news: prices of most feeds have fallen from their highs of last summer. The bad news: milk prices have fallen much faster than feed prices. The result: the worst economic situation in the U.S. dairy industry I have ever seen."

St-Pierre uses SESAME on a monthly basis to estimate break-even prices of all major commodities traded in Ohio, and to identify feedstuffs that currently are significantly underpriced. For example, some feedstuffs currently considered as bargains include: soybean meal, ground shelled corn, blood meal, wet brewers grains, dried distillers grains, feather meal, gluten feed and hominy. Overpriced feedstuffs include: bakery byproducts, beet pulp, canola meal, fish meal, molasses, soybean hulls and roasted soybeans. Feeds breaking even include: alfalfa hay, corn silage, whole cottonseed, tallow, wheat bran and wheat middlings.

"Producers think that ruminants need corn and soybeans, and they don't, as long as the proper nutritional requirements are met. Beef and dairy cattle have a tremendous ability to use a large diversity of feed," said St-Pierre. "Producers must remember, though, that it does not mean they can formulate a balanced diet using only feeds in the bargain column. Feeds in the bargain column offer savings opportunities, but their usage should be maximized within the limits of a properly balanced diet."

In addition, there are reasons that a feed might be a very good fit in a feeding program while not appearing to be a bargain, said St-Pierre.

"For example, molasses is often used to reduce ingredient separation in total mixed ration (TMR). Molasses is also an excellent source of sugars. Some nutritionists balance rations for sugars. In those situations, molasses might not be at all overpriced," said St-Pierre.

Dairy producers can find the latest nutritional information and feedstuffs costs in OSU Extension's dairy newsletter at, by clicking on "Buckeye Dairy News."

The latest version of SESAME can be downloaded at Users can try the software for free for seven days, after which the cost to register the program is $99.95. There is a version for users in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and another version for other international users.

St-Pierre will offer a SESAME workshop at the Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference. The event will be held April 21-22 at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. For more information, log on to

For more information on SESAME, contact Normand St-Pierre at (614) 292-6507 or

Candace Pollock
Normand St-Pierre