Getting The Most for your Feed Dollar

Sep 13, 2021

Cattle feed cost is the single largest expense in a cow/calf operation. In fact, feed costs account for around 50% of total operation costs. Here are a few tips to stretch your feed dollars for the upcoming winter.

Grazing is the most cost-effective way to feed your cows. Stockpiled grass will allow your cows to graze most of the winter. Running cattle on corn stalks is another way to extend grazing days. But remember, the value is gone from corn stalks long before the corn stalks are gone. Don’t leave cows in a stalk field until they start losing condition. A good way to utilize all the forage available is with protein tubs. Moving them around to different areas of the pasture or stalk field will cause the cattle to graze areas which they may not normally graze.

Another method of savings can come from the storage of harvested forages. When they are not stored properly, they lose volume and nutritional value. Round bales are best stored inside, which is not possible for most of us. The next best way is a well-drained surface with a layer of rock to help keep the bottom dry, minimizing waste. Always ensure proper spacing between bales, this allows air movement and helps drying during bad weather. Silage is another high-cost forage, it needs to be harvested at the right moisture. Too wet, you will get shrink loss; too dry, you will get a poor pack. Use of inoculants will help with proper fermentation. If you use byproducts like wet distillers, make sure you keep storage time in mind. Wet distillers need to be used within 7 to 10 days, even less in the summer. Try to order what you can use up in these time frames.

Know what you are feeding, get nutritional analysis on hay and silage. There is a chance you could be over feeding, which adds to your feed cost. Waste at feeding is a huge cost. Research shows cattle with 24-hour free-choice access can result in 25-45% waste of hay. Options to reduce that would be waste reducing rings, limited time access to hay or unrolling bales.

Contact SFG and we can help you chose the proper tubs or supplements for your situation. We also offer Forage Sampling so you can feed with confidence this winter.