Purchasing feeds for the cow herd

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A nutrient test for quality is the best way to know the nutrient profile of forages. Photo courtesy of Troy Walz. A nutrient test for quality is the best way to know the nutrient profile of forages. Not all feeds/forages are average, some are less than average and some are better than average. If forages are needed to be purchased, price all possible sources on a price per pound of nutrient basis on a 100% dry matter basis. This places the comparison on the same moisture basis. Analyzing cattle feeds for moisture, protein, and energy is recommended. Results of a feed analysis are reported on an as-is and dry matter basis. Nutrients should always be balanced on a dry-matter basis because nutrient requirements for beef cattle are reported on a dry-matter basis. After formulation on a dry-matter basis, values can be converted to an as-is basis (using the dry matter content of the feed) to determine the actual amount of feed (as-is) that should be fed. As an example, if the ration calls for feeding 24 pounds per head per day of a feed on a 100% dry matter basis and that feed is 90% dry matter and 10% moisture, then on an as-fed basis, you would need to feed 27 pounds per head per day (24 pounds/0.90 = 26.6 pounds).

Purchasing Feeds/Forages on a Pound of Nutrient Basis
Protein and energy supplements are designed to compensate for deficiencies in crude protein or energy content of the base diet. For beef cows the base diet is forage. The objective of a good supplementation program should be to supply the required amount of protein or energy rather than a specific amount of supplement. Therefore when choosing among various feeds a good strategy is to calculate the cost of each supplement or feed on a cost per pound of nutrient in the supplement then purchase the feed or supplement that is most economical. To calculate cost per pound of nutrient, simply divide the cost per ton of the supplement by the number of pounds of nutrient in a ton of the supplement. This assumes that all supplements are similar in moisture content. The result is the cost per pound of nutrient (example: crude protein or TDN). When all feed options are priced on a cost per pound of nutrient the most economical supplement can be identified. There are other factors to consider when purchasing feeds. With today’s fuel prices purchasing a supplement with a greater concentration of nutrient may decrease delivery cost because fewer tons will be needed to supply the same amount of protein. Supplements may differ in the amount of waste that results when they are fed or delivered. For example, alfalfa hay does not cost the same amount to deliver to cattle and results in more waste than feeding cubes but may still be the more economical supplement. Producers can easily account for cost differences in transportation, feeding and waste, and the purchase price of various supplements by using the “Feed Cost Calculator” found on the web at http://westcentral.unl.edu/agecon/ (click on “Livestock Production Decision Aids” then click on “Feed Cost Cow-Q-Lator”). Distillers grains can be purchased in three different moisture contents; dried (10% moisture), modified (50% moisture), or wet (65% moisture). If dried is priced at $225 per ton and wet is priced at $80 per ton, which is the best buy as an energy source if both are 110% TDN? Dried distillers is $0.11 per pound of energy on a 100% dry matter basis and wet is $0.10 per pound of energy on a 100% dry matter basis. Assuming that the equipment is available to feed either dry or wet distiller grains, then wet is the best buy.

Source: Rick Rasby, UNL Extension Beef Specialist

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