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KSU Stocker Field Day is Sept. 28

The Kansas State University (KSU) 2006 BEEF Stocker Field Day is Sept. 28 in Manhattan. Set for the KSU Beef Stocker Unit, the morning sessions include presentations on “The forces shaping change in the U.S. beef sector” and “The impact of added value programs on beef stocker producers,” with a barbecue lunch following.

The afternoon agenda includes breakout sessions that include:

  • Breakeven stocker-management strategies.
  • Utilizing individual stocker data.
  • Relevance of stocker implants for targeted quality grade programs?
  • Realistic expectations of animal ID technology performance.
  • Variation in forage quality as it relates to stocker performance.

For more info, contact Lois Schreiner at 785/532-1267 or lschrein@oznet.ksu.

Insurance tools for pasture, rangeland and forage

USDA announces two new risk-management tools for pasture, rangeland and forage, beginning with the 2007 crop year. The two programs, which allow livestock producers to buy insurance protection for losses of forage produced for grazing or harvested for hay, will be available through approved insurance providers.

  • The Rainfall index insurance program will be pilot-tested in 220 counties in Colorado, Idaho, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Dakota and Texas, and is based on rainfall indices as a means to measure expected production losses.

  • The Vegetation index insurance program will be pilot tested in 110 counties in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota, and is based on satellite imagery that determines the productivity of the acreage as a means to measure expected production losses.

Together, the pilot programs will be available to provide coverage on about 160 million of the 640 million acres of grazing land and hay land in the U.S., USDA says. Available for sale from crop-insurance agents later this year, the sales closing date is Nov. 30. Find more info at: http://www.rma.usda.gov/policies/pasturerangeforage/.

Ethanol-Powered Cows

The ethanol industry is on the fast track for expansion as fuel prices skyrocket. Its production has been expanding at breakneck speed for the past few years, and is expected to continue for several more.

Most U.S.-based plants use corn as their main ingredient in making ethanol, and the growth of the industry has provided an abundance of co-products — such as distillers grains — that can be used as high-protein and energy supplements in animal diets. Supplements fill in the holes left by limited and low-quality forages found in many drought-stressed pastures.

“Including distillers as part of the diet will reduce the amount of forage needed,” says Rick Rasby, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) beef nutritionist. “Put together a combination of lower-quality hay, or even some straw or baled cornstalks, with distillers. That diet could maintain cows prior to calving; and grass hay and distillers grains could meet the cow's needs after calving as well,” he adds.

Feeding distillers to cows

Distillers grains from ethanol plants generally contain a higher concentration of nutrients than such supplements as corn gluten feed, according to “Ethanol Co-Products For Cattle,” an Iowa State University Extension publication. Distillers grains contain about 30% protein and are high in energy, primarily because of high fat content. Fat content ranges from 9-14% on a dry matter (DM) basis.

Researchers acknowledge little work has been done to specifically measure the effects of adding distillers to cow rations. Most of the research has centered on growing and finishing cattle. But researchers like Rasby are beginning to study the effects of supplementing cows, and liking what they see.

“There don't appear to be any negative interactions with the forage,” Rasby says. “From a digestive standpoint, distillers grains and forage have a complementary effect on each other.”

Distillers, Rasby warns, can be high in phosphorous, so supplementing calcium may be warranted to keep the minerals in balance.

“In most diets I've worked with for cow-calf producers, I've probably included distillers rations at no more than 7 lbs./head/day on a DM basis,” Rasby says. “Because of the fairly high fat content, feeding more could cause a reduction in forage digestion.”

He adds that distillers are often used more as a supplement, fed at 2-4 lbs./head/day.

Feeding wet vs. dry distillers

Rasby adds there isn't much nutritional difference when considering whether to feed wet or dry distillers grains (DDG). Wet distillers grains (WDG) are high in fat, but difficult to store for long periods (65% moisture) due to spoilage concerns.

He reports UNL researchers worked this spring on a solution to the spoilage problem by eliminating oxygen from WDG and storing them like silage for long periods.

“At 65% moisture, distillers don't pack well, though,” Rasby says. “We added forage to the WDG to help pack during bagging and ensiling, and did it successfully.

“If you're going to bag it, use 15% hay, 85% WDG on a DM basis and it bags quite nicely,” he adds.

They also used a bunker silo in the trial, adding about 35% dry forage and 65% WDG to pack the silo.

“In the summer, when prices are low, cow-calf operators with the equipment to feed it can use this method to buy cheap distillers, store it and have it available to feed in the winter,” Rasby says. “As you move from summer into the late fall and winter, price also increases. Feedlot numbers, which are low in the summer, increase in the winter and so does the demand for these feed products.”

Rasby cautions that even with the forage mixed with the distillers, he still wouldn't supplement more than 7 lbs./head/day dry matter of distillers grains.

For more information on storing WDG, visit http://beef.unl.edu.

Pricing by-products

Costs of distillers grains vary by demand for the product. Galen Erickson, UNL assistant professor of animal science, says, “As a general rule, you can buy WDGs at 90-95% the price of corn on a DM basis.”

He cautions producers to make sure they do the math.

“You might have a price on distillers grains for $35/ton, and think it's a great deal because it's cheap,” Erickson says. “But when you figure it's only 35% DM, $35 on an as-is basis works out to be $100/ton DM.”

Pricing them on a DM basis relative to corn is how to how you want to price any by-product, he says.

Transportation is the other major factor in determining cost. Erickson cautions producers to look at transportation costs in deciding where to buy (see map).

“If you're 200 miles from a plant, that changes your options dramatically compared to if you're only 10 miles away, because of high transportation costs,” he says.

Nebraska currently has 12 plants in operation, with an additional seven scheduled to be built in the next few years.

A 2005 UNL study evaluated the economic costs of feeding distillers in feedlots, including transportation costs of the distillers. For more information on that study, see the 2006 Nebraska Beef Report at http://beef.unl.edu.

One farmer's story

Kent Pruismann, an Iowa farmer, has been feeding corn by-products to his cow herd for a number of years.

“I started feeding liquid by-products from the liquid corn processor plant in Marshall, MN,” says Pruismann, who keeps his 250 fall-calving cows near Rock Valley, IA.

Pruismann is also on the board of directors for Siouxland Energy and Livestock Coop, a producer-owned ethanol plant near Sioux Center, IA. The coop's 391 farmer-members are required to supply 2,500 bu. of corn/year/share owned. The ethanol plant produces approximately 25 million gals. of ethanol/year.

All of Siouxland's by-products are sold within 100 miles of the plant, Pruismann says. “That's part of the mission of the ethanol plant,” he adds. “It was to fit into the livestock part of it also.”

Feeding corn syrup

Pruismann takes advantage of his close proximity to the plant. “We put corn syrup in everything. It's quite economical and high in protein,” he adds.

Corn syrup, like distillers grains, is a high-energy by-product produced by ethanol plants. Pruismann uses it with baled and ground cornstalks.

“We feed 35% syrup, 64% ground cornstalks with the balance of trace minerals,” he adds. The syrup contains about 10-12% fat and 22% protein.

He rotationally-grazes his cow herd on 100 acres of grass until winter, when they're moved to cornstalks.

“This year, it's been quite dry and the grass didn't regrow. We put the cows on drylot so we could start feeding the cornstalk/corn syrup ration, which we did for 30 days,” Pruismann says. “I was concerned about switching cows back and forth from grass back to fed mixed ration, and then back to grass, but that hasn't been a concern.”

CO in meat packaging

Rep. Rosa DeLauro(D-CT) plans to introduce legislation to ban the use of carbon monoxide (CO) in the packaging of meat. The FDA allows use of CO for meat packaging, which recent Texas Tech University and University of Georgia research shows prevents the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

Melvin Hunt, Kansas State University, says the “effort to discredit the science that went into it — and efforts to discredit the federal agency that reviewed it three times — is scientifically inaccurate and unfortunate.”

TPA renewal

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), National Association of Manufacturers, and Coalition of Service Industries have called upon Congress to extend Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which expires in June 2007. TPA allows the President to negotiate trade agreements for an up-or-down vote by Congress.

AFBF said, “TPA is critical if we want other countries to engage in serious negotiations with the U.S. United States ag relies on overseas markets and gaining access to those markets is vital to the overall success of farmers and ranchers. Ag's ability to compete in global markets, on fair terms, with better access to expanding markets is dependent on TPA.”

Beating Health Bills

There are three good reasons why ranchers pay the high cost of health insurance — to get good medical care if sick or injured, avoid ruinous medical bills, and protect the ranch from medical creditors should medical bills outstrip the ability to pay them.

Even so, some ranchers can't afford health insurance now. And, as insurance premiums continue to rise, the number is likely to grow, adding to the national total of more than 60 million adults who either can't afford health insurance or have insufficient coverage.

There are ways to make such insurance more affordable. Among them is to opt for a higher deductible.

When their annual premium hit $11,000/year, Carol Hamilton, who with her husband operates a 600-mother cow operation in southwest Wyoming, opted to raise the deductible from $1,000 to $5,000. The higher deductible dropped the couple's annual premiums to $7,400.

Some health insurers offer deductibles as high as $20,000 for each person insured in return for low rates, but there's a trade off. The higher the deductible, the higher the potential out-of-pocket expense. Remember, however, that the purpose of health insurance is to avoid catastrophic health expenses that can financially ruin you.

Health savings accounts

One way to prepare for high deductibles is a Health Savings Account, which provides federal income-tax breaks for contributions paid into the account. Such accounts function like a standard Individual Retirement Account. Contributions up to a set limit may be deducted from taxable income.

Money in the account can be invested and grow tax-free. Then it can be withdrawn without tax penalty to meet insurance deductibles or other out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as doctor fees, eye exams or dental care. (Check federal guidelines for details on Health Savings Accounts.)

Even with high deductibles and a Health Savings Account, adequate health insurance is still beyond reach for about a third of U.S. adults. As a result, some people think the day has come for a federal national health insurance plan, similar to those in Canada and Europe.

“I hate to say it, but I think the government is going to have to step in and do something,” says central Wyoming rancher Rob Hendry, who pays $1,200/month to cover himself, his wife and two children. “I'm not one for big government, but this is getting out of hand.”

A large new federal program would be difficult to pull off given the mounting federal deficit. In the meantime, many states have tired of waiting for a federal program and are opting for their own experimental programs to get more residents insured. The most radical is in Massachusetts, which plans to achieve health insurance for every state resident. (Check with state officials for programs that may be available or about to begin in your state.)

No signs of easing

The rising cost of coverage shows no signs of easing. Even with the lower rates Carol Hamilton obtained by raising her family's deductible to $5,000, health premiums are still more than 700% higher than in 1987 when the cost was less than $1,000/year.

“There's no way the average self-employed person can keep up with the cost,” she says. “In another five years, gosh knows what it will be.”

For the present, the Hamiltons are biting the bullet and paying the bill.

“If something serious happened, we wanted insurance to pay the medical bills without having to mortgage the ranch to pay them,” she says.

For others though, the price of insurance is out of reach. In that case, here are some things you can do, according to Jack Thomas, MD, director of the Family Practice Residency Program at Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, CA, and the host of the TV series, “Dr. Jack's House Calls.”

First, if you have an emergency, remember federal law requires hospitals to treat emergencies first and worry about collecting the bill later.

“Neither profit nor non-profit hospitals can turn you away if you think it's an emergency,” Thomas says.

  • If you have an emergency, Thomas suggests you go to the nearest hospital or call 911 for an emergency crew to take you to the nearest facility.

  • Second, if you have children, keep in mind Congress has authorized millions of dollars to assist states in helping families without insurance to pay their children's medical bills.

  • Many hospitals will negotiate a lower fee structure for those who can't pay their bills in full. While such measures can be negotiated after the fact, it's often better to work out a payment plan in advance.

    “Be proactive,” Thomas says. “Go to the hospital's business office and ask what you can work out, such as a reduced price payment plan.”

  • Other avenues for reduced-price care for many procedures include privately-run free clinics. Many areas also have reduced-price teaching facilities where doctors go to meet residency requirements once they've finished medical school, Thomas adds.

Check for reduced-price dental programs, as well. Dental schools are one place to look.

Doug McInnis is a Casper, WY-based business writer.

BEEF QUALITY SUMMIT

Sign up now at www.beef-mag.com for BEEF magazine's 2006 BEEF Quality Summit.

The Nov. 14-15 workshop in Oklahoma City's Clarion Hotel aims to provide attendees with the background, tools and the environment to make the connections for involvement, and the potential rewards offered, in the new beef-value chain.

The first day's program outlines the opportunity available in the new beef-value chain. The second day is devoted to how to link your production into that chain.

Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • How U.S. beef consumers define quality.

  • Quality, profit and the cattle cycle.

  • International competition and opportunities for U.S. quality beef.

  • Current international beef trade opportunities.

  • Producers discussing how they are getting paid for the quality they produce.

  • What to look for in selecting a marketing partner — a panel discussion.

  • A value-chain production and marketing workshop — attendees will learn how to match typical production and identification scenarios with available markets for the cattle, and management adjustments needed to make the “next” calf crop fit a chosen market.

  • Linking up with a marketing partner — an opportunity to meet with marketing channel representatives.

The days of commodity marketing are sliding into history. Experts say there will always be a commodity market but those participating in it will find increasingly shrinking opportunity as the world moves more into coordinated systems designed to produce and reward value. Delivering a roadmap into that world is the idea behind the BEEF Quality Summit.

For more detail on speakers, topics, accommodations and registration, visit www.beef-mag.com and click on the “BEEF Quality Summit” box in the top right corner of the opening page. Or call 952/851-4695.

What's a fair cow share lease?

As the nation's drought expands and worsens, I get more calls on the economics of moving a cow herd to another ranch for feeding over the next year. Typically, folks want to know what is an equitable share-lease when one party owns the cows (and maybe even the bulls) and the other party provides the winter and summer feed, labor, etc., for the herd over a year's time?

This month, I'll discuss just such an arrangement I evaluated for a client. The herd numbers are from my Integrated Resource Management demo herd, which I have permission to share, but what's important here is the process.

Most all business partners in share-lease arrangements want an equitable (fair) agreement. It's one where the cow owner and working rancher share the calf crop in the same proportion they share the production expenses of operating the beef cow herd.

The key to an equitable agreement is first calculating the total production expenses for the herd to be shared, then allocating these total costs — one item at a time — to one or other of the partners. The cow owner's costs and the working rancher's costs are then totaled up and their percentages of the total costs determined. The calf crop is then divided according to these two percentages.

Table 1 presents the cow herd's cost of production data calculated for this share-lease analysis. The Table 1 cost data is on a per-cow basis.

Total feed costs are calculated at $275.54/cow, livestock costs are $41.77/cow, bull depreciation is $14.24, operating interest is $3.74, and fixed costs (including cow depreciation) is $101.58. (Depreciation on the breeding herd was used in place of the cost to bring replacement heifers into a perpetual herd. You can use either depreciation or cost of replacements for a perpetual herd but do not use both.)

This gives a total operating cost for this beef cow herd (excluding labor, management and a charge for equity capital) of $429.32. This figures out to a unit-cost-of-producing (UCOP) a cwt. of calf of $84.

Table 1 presents a detailed breakdown of the operating-cost contribution of each business partner. The bottom line presents the total operating costs ($429.32) divided into a $95.64 cost contribution for the cow owner and a $333.68 contribution for the working rancher.

In order to determine an equitable share agreement for this share-lease herd, we need to work from the “full costs” of production, considering labor, management and equity capital. This allows us to arrive at the total (full) costs of both parties, and thus determine the cost contribution of the cow owner and the working rancher.

Table 2 presents the “full costs” of production, including a charge for labor, management and equity capital. The full costs of production are calculated to be $610.28/cow, which works out to a UCOP of $120/cwt. of calf produced. The cow owner's cost contribution is $31/cwt. of calf produced, while the working rancher's cost contribution is $89/cwt.

In this example herd, the cow owner cost contribution to full costs is $156.91, while the working rancher's is $453.37. This works out to the cow owner contributing 26% of the full costs, and the working rancher contributing 74%. Based on my cost-analysis work with other ranchers, these cost contributions probably won't change a whole lot as we progress through the beef-cattle cycle.

This suggests then that the cow owner should get 26% of the calf crop and the working rancher 74%. Remember, the cow owner also gets the cull-cow income, but the cow owner is responsible for any preg-checked replacement heifers that might be added back into the breeding herd.

I recommend rounding this share agreement to 25% of the calf crop going to the cow owner and 75% to the working rancher. The bottom half of Table 3 illustrates the income allocation for this herd under a 25/75 share lease.

Thus, the cow owner gets 25% of the calf crop, plus all cull-animal income, bringing his portion of the beef-cow income to $237/cow or 36% of gross income. The working rancher gets $426/cow, or 64% of the total gross income. Remember, a typical beef cow herd derives 15-25% of its — gross income from cull-animal sales.

These percentage-income allocations won't change a whole lot as we progress through the cattle cycle, but the absolute values of these gross-income allocations can change substantially each year for each business partner.

Is there extra profit in a lease?

A second point — share-lease agreements don't generate any additional profit. In fact, there's no guarantee either party will make money with a share-lease agreement in any given year. The partners will, however, share the good years and bad years together.

My final point is to get these agreements in writing, paying particular attention to the start and end dates. The beef cow herd's year should start immediately after weaning and go through to the next weaning. That way, the beef-cow year corresponds to the production of one calf crop, making it easier to administer the agreement.

If drought feeding begins before weaning, the cow owner should pay a daily feed and labor cost until weaning. The two parties can then enter into an annual share-leasing agreement.

For multi-year agreements, the written agreement should explain clearly how both parties can terminate the agreement. Legal squabbles that occur generally tend to center on the termination process. Agreeing to, and signing off upfront, on the terms for ending the agreement will minimize headaches.

Editor's Note: Harlan Hughes offers a CD entitled, “How to make the cattle cycle Work for you.” For a copy, send $25 to Harlan Hughes, 30 Ramble A Road, Laramie, WY 82070.

Click on the link below to view figures.

This month in brief

With expanding drought, Harlan Hughes says more producers are inquiring about the economics of moving herds to another ranch for feeding. Folks are asking what constitutes an equitable share-lease when one party owns the cows and the other provides winter and summer feed, labor, etc., over a year's time? Read the details at “What's a fair cow share lease?” on page 10.

Drought has forced a passel of cattle off pastures in large parts of the U.S. this summer, while others are turning early to feed supplies that had been intended for winter. Wes Ishmael details in “Making Hay Without It” how limit-feeding, also known as program-feeding, can cost-effectively mitigate drought's sting for producers set up to manage such programs. Page 14.

In a thoughtful, and novel, supplementation strategy, New Mexico beef cattle specialist Clay Mathis suggests producers use forage “color” in determining how to best manage cattle on drought-stressed forages this fall. Mathis says the color of the forage can give you an idea of its protein content. Read “The Color of Grass,” by Clint Peck on page 19.

That a 100-million-gal. ethanol plant is under construction in Hereford, TX, is surprising, but adding more furrow to the brow is that it will be count on 1,500 tons of feedlot manure/day to fire it — on a 24/7 basis. Larry Stalcup provides more on this venture where feedlot manure will fire an ethanol plant, whose by-products will be fed back to the cattle, in “Full-Circle Feeding” on page 34.

Grass management is an important part of surviving catastrophic events like drought. The South Dakota Grazing Management and Planning Project teaches graziers how to become better grazing managers, and how to set up written plans to prepare for managing through disasters. Stephanie Veldman explains the program in “Lifetime Managers,” on page 60.

Lameness can rob a beef animal of health and performance just as effectively as more high-profile maladies like respiratory disease, writes DVM Mike Apley in “Watch for lameness” on page 72. In his discussion, Apley focuses on two common problems found in backgrounding and feeding situations — footrot and toe abscesses, and one emerging challenge — hairy heel warts.

Making Hay Without It

“The drought in 1998 was the first time in recent years we faced a crisis like this year, where you have very limited forage — standing forage or hay — and what's available is very costly,” says Dave Jones, general manager of Livestock Nutrition Center facilities in Fletcher and Chicasha, OK.

“We (Oklahoma producers) learned two lessons in 1998,” Jones says. “First, limit-feeding — feeding commodity and supplement — makes stocker operations more predictable. With limit-feeding, you can get stocker cattle to their target weight on time even when forage isn't available. The other lesson we learned, but didn't remember as well, is that limit-feeding works for cows, too.

One reason is simply the tradition and mindset that cows need hay in the winter. In actuality, Jones says, “Hay has long been recognized by the beef-nutrition community as the most inefficient way to feed cows… At one time, it probably made sense but it's been a real draw on profitability for the past 20 years.”

Back then, there was little research on limit-feeding cows. Since then, several land-grant universities have upheld the concept's logic. For instance, Ohio State University researchers concluded that, in times of expensive hay and cheap corn, cows could be wintered at half the cost while maintaining the same levels of pasture and reproductive performance.

Closer to home, Jones says, “We've proven that, with today's ingredient costs, limit-feeding is the most economically efficient way to get nutrient into a cow.”

Based on the ration for an 1,100-lb. cow, he explains cows in his part of the country can be fed for $1.25/day. Feeding the same cow a more traditional winter ration of hay at today's cost and 1 lb. of supplemental protein/day would cost $1.95.

“With limit-feeding, you save 75-80¢/head/day, so it's a no-brainer this year,” Jones says.

Plus, there are cash-flow opportunities. As Jones explains, “Even if we get some rain and there's some wheat pasture and cool-season grass, with limit-feeding you don't have to tie money up in hay you may or may not need. You pay for feed as you use it, rather than paying up front.” He's referring to the fact many feed companies let producers lock in ingredient prices by agreeing to purchase a certain volume, and producers pay as the feed is mixed and delivered.

Besides, with forage and hay so scarce, Jones says, “I don't see any other way to keep cows and get them through the winter this year.”

Limit-feeding's principles

“The basic principle of program feeding, also termed limit-feeding, is to feed corn or some other concentrate energy source, along with just enough supplement to meet the animal's requirement for maintenance or for a targeted level of weight gain,” explains David Lalman, Oklahoma State University (OSU) Extension beef cattle specialist. “Generally a very limited amount of roughage will be fed, or enough to keep the animal's digestive system healthy.

Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University beef nutritionist, adds: “With limit-feeding or program feeding, you know grain or corn has more energy per unit of weight than roughage, so you're programming them to maintain or gain a certain amount of weight. The real key is to make sure you have the facilities.”

Typically folks think of limit-feeding as replacing most of the ration with grain-based concentrates. These days, however, folks are replacing hay completely by using ingredients like cottonseed hulls, which provide the necessary digestible fiber.

Understand this is an entirely different way of feeding cows. They have to be fed every day, ideally about the same time, and a specific amount. Besides the additional labor compared to normal wintering, limiting cows' consumption means they must be confined, either to drylot or to a trap or sacrifice pasture.

“It's not for everyone,” Lalman says. “Adoption is limited by the additional labor requirement, management skills, feed-storage capacity, and the availability of feed bunks, feed-delivery equipment and a well-drained lot or sacrifice pasture.”

Jones and his brother began limit-feeding their cows through winter a few years ago and found a way around the feed bunks. He cites University of Nebraska research that found 5% of a limit-feeding ration using rolled corn resulted in 5% or less waste when fed on the ground.

Jones found the same thing, explaining, “If you feed on the ground in piles, there's minimum waste… It takes cows a week or so to figure out how to circle around to piles when they eat,” he says. “Far as that goes, it takes cows a while to get used to the fact they're going to feel hungry for a while.”

Lalman adds: “Limit-feeding's cost-effectiveness depends on each producer's price of alternative forage, price of grain and price of the supplement needed for hay or for limit-feeding.”

Wrapped a dally tighter, Lardy says, “It really depends on the trucking costs. What can you buy corn for? And, do you have the facilities to manage it?”

You can find sample ingredients and rations in the OSU fact sheet F-3028 available at www.osuextra.com.

Stick to the plan

“You need tight fences and plenty of bunk space. It's not something you can implement in large pasture situations,” Lardy says. “Cows would normally consume 40 lbs. of roughage and you're backing that down to 15-17 lbs. of feed in the ration. The cows will act like they're hungry but they don't necessarily need the feed.”

Confinement is a must because limit-feeding is all about precision. You decide exactly what the cattle will consume based on specific performance goals and the ration designed to achieve those goals. Giving cattle access to standing forage or other feed undermines the ability to achieve the goals.

Likewise, Jones says limit-feeding's success depends on a mixed ration. Though feeding a ration composed of a single ingredient would be cheaper, Jones advises, “Don't try to feed a straight ingredient for a limit-fed ration. All ingredients have nutritional weaknesses and need to be blended into a total, complete mixed ration.”

He and his brother tried with soybean hulls, the closest to a complete source of nutrients that exists as a feed ingredient. Bloat was a problem, just like high-sulfur levels can be with corn gluten, or acidosis can be with whole corn.

Next, Jones emphasizes vitamin and mineral packages designed for the specific ration, and production goals, are the oil that makes all of the rest of it operate to maximum potential.

“This is more complicated than just feeding a nutrient-dense package. We're kind of turning a cow into a feedlot cow, so she needs a different vitamin and mineral package, along with an ionophore to enhance feed efficiency,” Jones says.

As Lalman says, “Acidosis, bloat and founder are always a risk when high-grain diets are fed to ruminants,” he adds.

With these challenges in mind, Jones explains, “That's where you have to ask yourself if the 75¢/head/day savings in feed costs is worth it to you.”

How to limit feed cows

  • Gradually increase the amount of grain fed and reduce the amount of hay fed over a two-week, step-up period.

  • A minimum of 30 in. of linear bunk space/cow should be provided, more if cows are horned.

  • Whole shelled corn is safer to feed than finely processed grain. If grain must be processed, coarsely roll or crack it. University of Illinois research shows cows limit-fed with whole corn performed similarly to cows fed cracked corn.

  • Long-stemmed hay should be fed at a minimum dry matter (DM) level of 0.25% to 0.50% of body weight for cattle receiving whole shelled corn. If cracked or rolled corn is used, provide long-stemmed hay at a minimum of 0.50% body weight DM, but not in excess of 0.75%. Feeding less hay reduces the cost but increases the need for greater management intensity.

  • Feeding an ionophore helps prevent acidosis and bloat, as well as reduce the amount of feed needed by 7-10%. Rumensin is the only ionophore cleared for feeding to beef cows (100-200 mg./day).

  • Feed cattle at the same time daily. Altering feeding time significantly increases the risk of digestive upset. An ideal feeding situation: where corn, hay and supplement are placed in the bunk ahead of time, with cattle given access to it at the appropriate time of day.

  • The idea is to supply a ration in a small package, highly concentrated in energy. Thus, the total pounds consumed/head/day will be less than cattle are accustomed to; they will likely act hungry for the first few days. They will also look gaunt compared to cattle receiving free-choice hay or pasture.

    Resist feeding more if cattle look or act hungry. The advantages of decreased cost and/or decreased hay utilization will be negated.

  • Closely monitor cow body condition and adjust the amount of concentrate to maintain a body-condition score of 5 or better for mature cows, 6 or better for first-calf heifers.

Source: David Lalman, Oklahoma State University