Changing With the Beef Industry

US - With the high input costs of fertilizer, feed, corn, byproducts, hay and fuel, producers may feel like they are left with little hope of success. So what exactly are the options for beef producers, if there are any at all?
calendar icon 12 March 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Wendy Scott, a livestock specialist says there are: change business as usual and adapt to the environment, but don’t change and complain persistently, or have a herd dispersal.

The latter may not be an option for those wanting to stay in business or younger producers wanting a future and that is exactly what producers need to think about—lifestyle farming is probably not very viable with feed, fertilizer and hay prices where they are, so what are you going to do?

"In order to thrive in this new economy it is more important than ever for producers to work with neighbors and friends in their communities to stay economically viable."
Wendy Scott, livestock specialist.

Recently, Dr. Vern Pierce, a State Ag Economist with the Commercial Ag Beef Focus team, challenged producers to stop working and thinking in the mode of “business as usual” because the nature of the beast has changed and producers have to be willing to change as well. Pierce dared producers to stop thinking and doing everything so independently. “In order to thrive in this new economy it is more important than ever for producers to work with neighbors and friends in their communities to stay economically viable.” A great example of this is the Premier Beef groups throughout Missouri, including Mid-Missouri Premier Beef Members. These beef producers work together to bid mineral and animal health supplies at a discounted rate because they can buy in larger quantities than they would otherwise be able to do individually.

With the influx of distiller’s grains in the central Missouri area becoming readily available, working with fellow producers can become an economic necessity as feed prices continue to climb. A great example of this is buying wet distiller’s grain in the summer (when prices are low), mixing it with low quality forage, ensiling the mix and feeding it in the winter to beef cows. This can be done with low-cost facilities.

Chris Zumbrunnen, MU Livestock Specialist, Milan, worked with a producer who feeds several thousand stockers and beef cows in northern Missouri. In this scenario, they used wet distiller’s grains with solubles from an ethanol plant and mixed it with CRP grass which did not have much feed value (including cedar seedlings, warm season grass seed-heads, etc., in other words very poor quality). They mixed the two together, ensiled the mix and tested it through a nutrition livestock laboratory. The results yielded a palatable feed that was 16% crude protein and cost less than $50 per ton. One producer who owns several head of beef cattle tried this method; however several producers working together could do this in a coordinated effort. Nebraska has also done research on ensiling wet distiller’s grains and mixing it with low quality forage such as straw or fescue.

Midwestern producers are poised to stay viable and even thrive if they are willing to think “outside the traditional box” and use technologies and feeding strategies not used 5 or 10 years ago. Today’s livestock climate has changed, meaning producers will continue to have to change if they want to remain in the business. This might mean doing something differently than just going down to the local feed store and getting a few bags of feed to stay in the livestock business. For more information on ensiling wet distillers grains, contact your local extension livestock specialist.

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