ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Replace hay with corn-based feeds

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- The recent drop in corn prices represents a tremendous change in the feed cost environment for cattle producers. "Corn and corn-derived feeds, such as distiller's grains and silage, are much lower in price, compared to recent h...

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- The recent drop in corn prices represents a tremendous change in the feed cost environment for cattle producers.

"Corn and corn-derived feeds, such as distiller's grains and silage, are much lower in price, compared to recent history," says Warren Rusche, South Dakota State University Extension cow-calf field specialist. "Hay and roughage costs are lower, as well, but on a percentage basis, the price decline has not been as dramatic as compared to corn prices."

Taking into account differences in energy concentration, corn becomes a much cheaper source of energy than hay. Rusche explores opportunities producers might have to exploit these differences in feed prices to reduce winter feed expenses.

"Rations were formulated to meet protein requirements and maintain body condition," he says.

• Ration 1: A traditional hay-based diet using alfalfa hay and grass hay.

ADVERTISEMENT

• Ration 2: A limit-fed diet consisting of corn silage, grass hay and modified distiller's grains.

• Ration 3: A limit-fed diet using grass hay combined with corn and modified distiller's grains.

Mineral content was not considered. Rusche says diets based on corn or corn-derived feeds are more cost effective in compared with diets based completely on hay.

"Of course, every situation is different and hay costs in some markets may not be as high as the values used here," he says.

"In some cases, there may be an opportunity to utilize wetter corn for cattle diets, which would avoid drying charges and shrink, resulting in reduced costs for corn growers that also feed cattle," he says.

He says there are also potential advantages in harvesting corn at higher moisture content because of greater flexibility in harvest timing and reduced risk of inclement weather causing harvest delays and losses.

Rusche says implementing some of these strategies requires limiting feed intake to match cattle nutrient requirements. In order to do that successfully, there are some management factors that need to be considered.

• Diets should be based on actual nutrient analyses.

ADVERTISEMENT

• The body weight of the cows also needs to be measured or estimated accurately. Feeding 1,500-pound cows a ration developed for cows weighing 1,300 or 1,400 pounds could result in deficiencies sufficient to affect this year's or next year's calf crop.

• Gradually adapt cattle to diet changes, especially if high-starch diets are used (e.g., greater than 70 perent corn inclusion).

• Proper bunk management is extremely important to avoid digestive upsets, as well as some way to accurately weigh or mix limit-fed diets.

• Allow plenty of room at the bunk and in the lot (at least 30 inches of bunk space and 500 square feet per cow).

• Limit-fed rations will meet the cows' nutrient needs, but won't satisfy their appetites. Strong fences are essential. Providing access to low-quality (cheap) roughage such as baled or grazed corn stalks might help satisfy their appetites and provide additional fill.

• Just as in more traditional management systems, body condition needs to be monitored to make sure the cattle are on track to meet production goals.

For a more in-depth discussion of limit-feeding cows, visit www.iGrow.org or contact Warren Rusche at 605-882-5140 or Warren. Rusche@sdstate.edu .

Related Topics: LIVESTOCK
What To Read Next
This week on AgweekTV, we hear about North Dakota corporate farming legislation and about WOTUS challenges. Our livestock tour visits a seedstock operation and a rabbit farm. And we hear about new uses for drones.
Kevin and Lynette Thompson brought TNT Simmental Ranch to life in 1985. Now, their daughter, Shanon Erbele, and her husband, Gabriel, are taking over the reins, and their sale is for Feb. 10.
Gevo will be making sustainable aviation fuel in Lake Preston, South Dakota. Summit Carbon Solutions plans to capture carbon emissions from the facility.
Even if it's not a lucrative venture, the hobby of raising rabbits continues at this farm near Sebeka, Minnesota.