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Keeping feed costs in check can improve livestock profitability

With the rising price of feed, it is getting harder and harder for producers to break even. A panel of livestock experts discussed ways that livestock producers can stay out of the red.

When it comes to raising livestock, feed costs can make up a large percentage of total cost for production for livestock producers. A panel of livestock experts came together at the 39th annual Agweek Farm Show , which was held virtually this year, to discuss this important topic and the rising issue of feed costs producers are seeing.

With a tough couple years in the agriculture industry, some livestock producers have had a difficult time turning a profit on their stock. However, according to Bob Thaler, a South Dakota State University Extension swine specialist, hog producers are finally starting to see a positive change.

“The good news is that we’re actually seeing some profit right now. Pork producers are probably close to that $20 a pig profit right now . Which sounds really good, but again remembering the past couple years have been in the red,” Thaler said. “So we are sure glad to be making some money, but we have a pretty big hole to dig out of.”

An aspect of landing in the red has to do with rising feed costs, which seem to keep steadily climbing. In addition, the demand for byproducts has increased, as well as their cost.


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A panel of livestock experts came together for Agweek's Farm Show to discuss the rising cost of feed and what producers can do to break even. March 24, 2021. (Emily Beal / Agweek)

“We certainly do know that feed costs continue to rise as well as byproduct feeds, which is unfortunate because we have been able to get by for quite a few years on supplementing with byproducts when they were a waste product of whatever processing there was,” said Rachel Endecott, owner of Grey Horse Consulting.

Endecott said it's important to know what feeds you have available and ways you can mix different types of rations. In addition if you can stretch your hay supply throughout the winter.

“Finding out what your feed cost now, and what you can do about it is the very first and most important step,” Endecott said.

Another important step is for producers to get their hay tested , and tested in a timely manner. That way if the producers’ hay samples come back lacking in essential nutrients, producers have ample time to purchase new or more forage and additional supplements that the hay is lacking.

When it comes to alternatives, it is important to keep shipping or trucking costs in mind. A producer may be able to find a cheaper alternative in a neighboring state or city, but after the cost of transportation is tacked on, the alternative could actually end up being more expensive.

“One thing producers need to look out for is taking a look at that trucking costs,” Thaler said.

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