Winter Feeding Cost Comparison – Hay vs. Alternative Feeds



Fall has arrived and focus has shifted to winter feed supplies. Feed prices have dropped significantly from their June highs, but unfavorable weather conditions have left the question of available supplies. Hay prices vary significantly with prices in some areas with short supplies nearly double those in areas with adequate supplies. On the other hand, there could be numerous options for alternate winter feeds this year as some crops originally intended for grain are being harvested as livestock feed. Harvest delays and the likelihood of frost damage has led to quality downgrades. Alberta feed barley prices have dropped 13% from the June peak at $205/ton to $179/ton in September, and market analysts project that the feed grain markets have not hit bottom yet.

In eastern Canada, last year’s fall and winter conditions caused significant winter kill on the winter wheat and hay crops, while spring planting was delayed due to excessive moisture. According to local market reports, the fears of supply shortage have sent Ontario wheat straw prices to $0.06-0.10/lb in some areas compared to the historical range of $0.03-0.04/lb. Cool, wet weather in August and September are also causing harvest delays in the east, with the possibility of more cereal crops going to the feed market.

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Stretching Feed Supplies

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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Winter feed will be a scarce and costly resource in much of Western Canada this year. Use it carefully, because the management decisions you make now will impact reproductive and economic performance for at least two years.

Research conducted 25 years ago by P.L. Houghton and co-workers at Perdue University (J. An. Sci. 68:1438) demonstrated how energy intake by pregnant and lactating cows impacted their reproductive and calf performance. At the start of the last trimester (early January for cows calving in April), cows were fed in two groups. One group received a maintenance diet (ME) meeting recommended energy intake. The other was fed a low energy diet (LE) providing 70% of recommended energy intake. After calving, each group was split again, with cows receiving either the low energy diet or a high energy diet (HE; 130% of recommended energy intake). Skimping on nutrition in late pregnancy and after calving impacted both Continue reading

Feed testing explained in Beef Research School video

A new video is now available on www.BeefResearchSchool.com

Feed testing is a fundamental tool to assist cow-calf producers, backgrounding operations and feedlots develop sound feeding programs. By knowing the nutritional qualities of feeds, producers are better able to achieve desired production targets and save on supplemental feed costs. Feed testing is especially important to accurately determine the feed quality of forages, because visual appraisal of colour, plant species and leaf content, and knowledge of cutting time, can be misleading and should not be relied upon to determine feed quality. Continue reading

Alternative Feeds: Soybean Straw and Kochia

Alternative feeds can help reduce feed costs or stretch feed supplies, but it’s important to take the time to understand the nutritional quality of the feeds that are available, and become aware of any potential health risks to your cattle by including them in feed rations.

A producer from South-Central Manitoba who has had to pull his cows off dry pasture early recently asked us about feeding soybean straw and kochia. Continue reading