Feed prices are driven by supply, demand and the price of alternatives. Winter feed presents the largest variable cost for producers. As producers look for ways to protect margins and minimize losses this fall, there are opportunities to be found in examining low-cost feed alternatives.
While the cost of some inputs cannot be controlled by any one operation, producers can control their budget for high-quality rations. Knowing where a crop may fall short on nutrition is a critical first step, and a feed test will point out where supplementary nutrients may be required for a herd. The next step is sourcing nutrients at the lowest price, choosing from a variety of feedstuff that offer nutrient balance. The Beef Cattle Research Council’s Winter Feed Cost Comparison Calculator is a decision-making tool that helps producers compare the cost of feed alternatives available in their area.
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.
ith rising feed grain prices, feedlots are required to consider alternatives to purchased grains. Traditionally forages are avoided because of their higher fiber content and lower energy content which leads to lower feed conversion efficiency and increased manure production. The highly variable energy content of corn silage makes it challenging to maintain animal growth rate when cattle are fed higher forage diets.
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2015 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
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 →
New resources have been added to www.BodyConditionScoring.ca to help cow-calf producers make decisions about managing body condition in their cow herd. Cattle producers know that fat cover plays a crucial role in the reproduction, health and welfare of their animals. These new resources will help guide them when modifying practices on farm to better manage body condition and increase their herds’ productivity and profitability.
The new feed cost calculator gives producers the opportunity to compare the extra expense of adding condition to thin cows in the Fall to the extra value gained by the resulting larger calf crop. The calculator is Continue reading →
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the July 2014 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Ergot develops when a fungus called Claviceps purpurea infects susceptible grass and grain plants during flowering. Rye is most susceptible annual crop, followed by triticale, then wheat. Barley and oats are less susceptible but not completely resistant. Ergot is not a concern in corn. Ergot can also infect a number of perennial grasses. Cool, damp weather conditions during the flowering period (like those in Western Canada over the last few years, and that appear to be shaping up again this summer) cause the flowers stay open longer. This allows more opportunities for ergot spores to spread and infect the seed head. Ergot spores can survive for a year on the soil surface. Less summer fallow, continuous grain-on-grain rotations and un-mowed grass in road allowances allow ergot spores to build up in the soil and help the disease cycle to continue and build.
The cool, wet conditions across parts of the country this spring, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan, may have created the perfect environment for ergot. While virtually unheard of a decade or two ago, veterinarians and researchers agree that problems with ergot are clearly on the rise in the prairies.
What is ergot?
Ergot is a plant disease caused by the Claviceps purpurea fungus. Although traditionally associated with rye and triticale, ergot also affects wheat, barley, and a variety of grasses including bromegrass, quackgrass, wheatgrass, orchardgrass, wild rye, and bluegrasses. Continue reading →
Corn, wheat and other grains contain 68-70% starch, 10-13% protein, 2-4% oil, 2-3% fiber and 2% minerals. Bioethanol production only uses the starch from the grain. Therefore, the protein, oil, fiber, and minerals are much more concentrated in the dried distillers’ grains with solubles (DDGS) by-product than in the original grain.
DDGS may be incorporated into feedlot diets depending on cost and availability. Feeding DDGS may have positive or negative impacts on animal health. The increased sulfur concentration in DDGS may increase the risk of polioencephalomalacia (PEM), a nervous disorder that has been observed in both high grain diets and high sulfur diets.
Optimizing protein formulation in the diet of growing beef cattle is one of the most effective and practical methods of improving feed conversion efficiency and growth performance. Many protein feeds are commercially available for cattle, including soybean meal, canola meal and distillers’ grains (DG). Canola meal is a common protein feed in western Canada and its production is expected to increase. However, canola meal protein is degraded more readily in the rumen. DG, a by-product from the process of grain-based ethanol production, is used in beef cattle diets depending on its availability and price relative to the cost of cereal grains. Chemical composition and feeding value of DG vary with grain source and milling process.
A recently-completed research project, funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster, worked to determine: Continue reading →
Acidosis refers to a lower than normal pH in the rumen. It is a growth performance, health and welfare concern caused by highly fermentable feed being digested too quickly, and typically seen when cattle are moved from a predominantly forage-based to grain-based diet. Cattle that engorge on forages are also at risk.
Acidosis can cause diarrhea, reduced feed intake, and depressed behavior. Once an animal recovers, it is likely to be feed deprived, leading it to overeat and be susceptible to more severe acidosis. Severe acidosis can lead to rumen ulcers, which allow bacteria into the blood stream causing further health problems, and death.