News 174 views last update:6 Aug 2012

How to minimise costs when buying feed

The ongoing drought, limited forage supplies, high hay prices, and rising grain prices have made managing feed costs extremely difficult for most Kansas cattle producers. US livestock specialist Karl Harborth explains some issues to think about when purchasing feeds.

During difficult situations, producers must become more flexible in the resources they obtain for their operation and feed them as efficiently as possible. Producers should have all forages and by-products tested for nutrient composition as content can be highly variable. Without the feed test, producers may be spending money on an expensive protein or energy supplement that was not needed or needed only in smaller amounts.
For example, if a protein supplement is needed, evaluate the possible supplements that you can purchase on the cost of each pound of protein available in these supplements. Be sure to compare feed ingredients on a dry matter basis.

Limit wastage
Another way to conserve feed resources and minimize cost is to limit wastage. One way to do so is to feed controlled amounts of hay. A dry, pregnant cow will eat 20 to 30% more hay than her needs when allowed free access to hay. A study from Purdue estimates that hay refused or wasted when cows were fed a 1-day, 2-day or 4-day supply per feeding was 11%, 25% and 31%, respectively. The second way to limit wastage is to evaluate the delivery system in which hay is fed. Hay feeders that have a barrier (cone, double ring, or slanted bars) can reduce hay wastage by 50% compared to conventional bale rings. A study conducted at Michigan State University showed cone type feeders to have wastage of 3.5% of dry matter and ring feeders to have 6.1% wastage.

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