SDSU Feed Producers Feed Advice

US - Producers seeking to minimize feed investments should evaluate needs and make purchases over the coming months.
calendar icon 29 May 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service Livestock Educator Tyler Melroe said producers should ask Extension specialists and educators to get answers.

"Consult with nutritionists, veterinarians, and Extension staff when you are making determinations," he said.

Producers can contact South Dakota Cooperative Extension livestock educators and specialist with questions as they evaluate winter-feed needs.

As they prepare for a systematic evaluation, Melroe said the first step producers should take is to determine average body weight for cows or ewes.

"This can be done by looking at sale barn receipts or if possible, weighing representative animals from a herd or flock," said Melroe. "When that's done, producers must consider their production stage for cattle or sheep, and the energy requirements for that stage."

Stages to consider include mid- and late-gestation for fall and winter, early lactation after calving or lambing, or growing for backgrounding feeder calves and replacement females.

Melroe said producers should determine the nutrient requirements, and evaluate what types of feedstuffs they currently raise, and the amounts of each.

"Producers need to procure the difference between determined need and feedstuffs produced," he said. "This evaluation will appraise forage quality factors, such as Crude Protein (CP) and Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), as well as quantity."

The evaluation covers grass hay, alfalfa, and mixed hays, along with silage and haylage, Melroe said. "As they answer these questions, and consider supplementation, we want to remind producers to consider associative effects," he said. "This can be negative or positive."

High-starch supplements, for example, can cause negative associative effects and are recommended for use in small quantities. "These feed grains should be fed at less than one-quarter of one percent, or about three pounds for a 1,200-pound cow," said Melroe.

"Producers need to take this step, consider deficiencies, and then procure feeds to meet supplemental needs at the lowest cost per unit of nutrient, CP or TDN, depending on need," Melroe said. "When figuring cost, remember to divide the delivered price by the percent dry matter (DM) of the feedstuff, then divide by the percent nutrient, whether it's CP or TDN."

When these costs do not exceed production costs to raise the same nutrient content, producers should consider buying. "Historically, alternative feeds like distillers grains, corn gluten feed, or soy hulls are more affordable in summer months," said Melroe. "But it's crucial to ensure these feeds can be stored in a manner that maintains, enhances, or at least minimizes a depression in quality."

The Britton-based livestock educator said high-moisture products, those with 50 percent or more moisture, have been stored in bags and packed in bunkers mixed with dry forage successfully.

Utilizing cone feeders for round bales and deep bunks for total mixed rations can minimize waste, and the use of mixer wagons for rations can improve the accuracy of delivered diets.

"Mixer wagons also can improve the efficiency of livestock consuming diets mixed in them," said Melroe. "It may appear that effective evaluation and acquisition requires a substantial effort, but it's a critical step to control costs and protect profits in both sheep and beef operations."

The SDSU Department of Economics Web site provides budgets for a variety of production scenarios. Visit to see the budget information at the site.

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