The 2014 Dr. Kenneth and Caroline McDonald Eng Foundation Symposium focused on “Innovative intensification in cow-calf systems.” Texas A&M University researchers presented results of a study comparing two rations for mature dry cows:
· A low-energy ration containing 64 percent wheat straw and 27 percent distillers’ grains, costing $130 per ton
· A high-energy ration contained 35 percent wheat straw, 29 percent corn and 27 percent distillers’ grains costing $157 per ton.
In order to provide equal nutrient consumption, the low-energy ration required approximately 50 percent more feed per day per cow than the high-energy ration. The researchers conducted a simulation study on dry cows managed for 120 days from weaning to 30 days before calving in three management groups:
· Maintained in drylot on the low-energy ration
· Maintained in drylot on the high-energy ration
For year-round grazing, the researchers assumed a base herd of 500 cows. Because less pasture per cow was required for those maintained for four months in drylot than grazed year-round, approximately 39 percent more total cows could be maintained year-round on the same land resource.
According to the group’s economic analysis of the three systems, net return per cow was $364 for year-round grazed, $237 for low-energy drylot, and $298 for high-energy drylot. Net return per system was $182,000 for year-round grazed, $165,000 for low-energy drylot, and $208,000 for high-energy drylot. These net returns/system reflect that fewer cows could be maintained on year-round grazing and that approximately 25 percent less total cost of feed per cow was required for high-energy vs. low-energy. The results indicate that part-time confinement management of dry beef cows could provide a viable option depending on relative costs of grazing land and alternative feeds.