Keeping costs down is one way to improve your chances of making money in the cattle feeding business. Here are 10 suggestions.
1. Good records. Monitoring feedlot performance and costs allows producers to make midcourse corrections. This is particularly important as feed costs rise and cattle prices change. Knowing current costs of production is essential to making timely marketing decisions and reducing corn use.
Several feed companies and veterinarians provide feedlot monitoring as a service. Feedlot monitoring software is available through Iowa State University Extension and commercial vendors.
2. Purchase cost. Purchase cost is often the largest single cost associated with a finished beef animal. Careful budgeting prior to purchase is extremely important in times of narrow margins. Good records of previous close-outs and past history of cattle from a source is useful in projecting cattle performance. Often the cheapest cattle may not be the most profitable depending on performance and efficiency. Use realistic cost and price projections when budgeting for new feeder cattle. Often periods of low prices and price volatility can create opportunities for the astute cattle buyer.
3. Feedbunk management. Managing feedbunks more closely can improve efficiency by reducing the incidence of low level acidosis on high grain rations. Using a bunk scoring system, or some method to reduce feed waste, can pay greater dividends during periods of high grain costs. An added benefit may be more consistent performance and better efficiency by eliminating the day-to-day variation in feed consumption. Recent research indicates that cattle that are slightly restricted (95 to 97 percent of full feed) will be more efficient. Good feedbunk management also includes proper feed mixing and accurate weighing of feed ingredients. This ensures that expensive nutrients will not be overfed, and reduces the risk of deficiencies.
4. Alternative feedstuffs. Many feeders are searching for alternatives to high priced corn. Several commodity feeds can partially substitute for corn. Your best bet is to look locally for feeds that may have a transportation cost advantage in your ration. Wet byproducts have a limited economical transportation range. Some examples of alternative feeds that may be available locally include corn gluten feed, distillers grains, corn screenings, off-grade or discounted corn, other grains (wheat, barley, rye, milo, oats), bakery byproducts, and others. Commodity feeds that may partially substitute for corn include hominy feed, fat, and wheat midds. Prices of these feeds tend to fluctuate with the corn and soybean meal market. Also, alternative feeds vary in nutritional content and may have practical feeding restrictions. Contact your nutritionist to help make decisions relative to the substitution of alternative feeds.