Feed typically accounts for the largest input cost in beef production, but a new the University of Illinois now offers an online calculator to help producers compare feedstuffs and make economical choices.

The  "Cost of Feedstuffs Calculator," is available on the Web and allows producers to compare different feedstuffs to make the most economical choices.

“With the advent of the ethanol industry and the further processing of grain, the co-products resulting from these processes has opened up a whole new area of feed sources. But it has been a challenge for producers to compare these different feedstuffs as they can vary in dry matter, protein and energy," says Dave Seibert, University of Illinois Extension animal systems educator.

Even a bigger problem is that the same feedstuffs from different processing plants can vary in their nutrient value.

“Also, the moisture content can vary between 10 and 60 percent, and some high moisture products can reach 80 percent moisture. It's nearly impossible for producers to come up with the cheapest sources of feedstuffs," Seibert says.

To further complicate matters, storage loss on some of these feedstuffs can range from 5 to 50  percent or more. 

“The ‘Cost of Feedstuffs Calculator' allows livestock managers, consultants, and veterinarians to compare the cost of purchasing, transporting and storage losses for different feedstuffs.  The feedstuffs library includes 120 different feedstuffs comprising: 22 company co-products; 25 by-products; 5 new generation co-products; 27 forages; 11 grains; 9 crop residues; 12 silages; and 9 supplements. In addition, producers can add additional feedstuffs available on their farm," Seibert says.

Each of the feedstuffs can be compared to the default feedstuffs, which is "number two shelled corn; 44 percent soybean meal and mid-bloom alfalfa hay."

“Groups of 5, 10 or 15 different feedstuffs can be compared at one time with the feedstuffs ranked on a cost per pound of energy or cost per pound of protein," Seibert says.

Support for the development of this computer program was provided by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, University of Illinois Extension; and Departments of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and Animal Sciences. 

Test the calculator at the  University of Illinois Web site.