Due to the dramatic increase in corn prices, some producers are looking for feeding alternatives.

“When corn is increasing like it has been over the past few months, that has caused our cost of gains to go up, as well as the cost of everything else to go up. So when we start looking for corn alternatives, nothing else is cheaper. It drove the price of everything else up, so that is the challenge people are having right now,” said Karl Hoppe, North Dakota State University livestock systems extension specialist for the Carrington Research Extension Center.

When looking for an alternative feed source, there are multiple things that producers should keep in mind such as dry matter, protein and energy content within the food. Freight costs should also be considered, something some producers often do not think about.

Feeds with moisture content greater than 50% cannot be hauled far without the cost of the freight making the feed not a savvy alternative. This can be an issue when hauling long distances from plants to feed lots and cattle herds.


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Some protein feeds available for North Dakota producers are soybean meal, canola meal, sunflower meal and linseed meal.

However, options for alternative feeds are limited.

“If feed prices remain high and slaughter cattle prices don’t increase, the only other option is for the feeder calf price to decrease,” said Tim Petry, North Dakota State University Extension livestock economist.

According to research, about every 10 cents per bushel price increase in corn, the price for a feeder calf decreases $1 per hundredweight — a devastating hit to cattle producers.

“It’s good in the sense that people have corn and they haven’t marketed it, but it's really frustrating when you have cattle that are locked in at a certain cost of gain and that cost of gain starts increasing. You can’t make that up on the back end,” said Allison Vanderwal, cattle producer and director of Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association.

This year was a good year for producers to contract feed during the summer months, when prices had not gotten to the height they are now, Petry explained. Producers may want to start thinking about purchasing their feed before they need it in order to avoid obstacles like this in the future.

“We get complacent about purchasing feeds until we need them,” Petry said. “This year’s unanticipated rise in feed prices reminds us that grain prices can change quickly as worldwide supply and demand conditions change.”