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How to get the most return on the least amount of feed dollars

Agriculture.com Staff 01/31/2008 @ 12:15pm

It's a tough winter for cattle producers, as you face high-priced hay, high-priced corn and weather-damaged cornstalks. To help you get the biggest bang for your feed-purchasing buck, the Iowa Beef Center (IBC) offers several tips.

Daryl Strohbehn, beef specialist with Iowa State University (ISU) Extension, says taking inventory of your feed needs will help determine which feed is the most economical to purchase. "No. 1, when looking at purchasing feed, determine what nutrient you need the most," says Strohbehn, who works with the IBC.

For most producers, their cow or calf feed is typically short on energy, as opposed to protein or another nutrient, he says. To determine which feed is most economical, he recommends looking at the cost per pound of total digestible nutrients (TDN).

To do this, find the TDN level of your feed resources (such as corn or hay), and calculate the cost per pound of TDN. For example, the TDN level for corn on a dry-matter basis is about 90%, while average quality hay is about 55%.

Factoring corn at $4.50 per bushel, the cost per pound of TDN is about 10¢, Strohbehn says. Factoring hay at about $120 per ton, the cost per pound of TDN is 13¢. From a feed energy perspective, corn would be the more economical feed purchase.

The other factor to consider is transportation costs. In the Midwest, even with corn nearing $5 a bushel, it's likely a better buy than hay because its transportation costs are lower per unit of energy, Strohbehn says.

Lastly, think about which feed resources fit your feeding program and how you can minimize feed waste. Grains and corn co-products can complement low-quality forage rations very well, Strohbehn says, but they must be fed appropriately. "While feeding on the ground can work when the soil is frozen, doing it during late-winter and spring thaws will cause considerable waste," says the Iowa State specialist. "The use of bunks, tires or troughs will quickly pay for themselves during muddy conditions."

It's a tough winter for cattle producers, as you face high-priced hay, high-priced corn and weather-damaged cornstalks. To help you get the biggest bang for your feed-purchasing buck, the Iowa Beef Center (IBC) offers several tips.

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