Feeding Strategy - Comparing feeds on a dry matter basis

Producer Question from 2013

Q.  With corn prices coming down significantly in the last several months and hay prices still being relatively high should this change my feeding strategy and what I purchase to feed for this fall and winter? (Oct 8, 2013)

A.  There has been a tremendous amount of movement both up and down for feed prices over the last year. When evaluating feeds and comparing them to one another, it is important that this be done on a dry matter basis. Feed is bought and sold on an as is basis. Depending upon the type of feed, the amount of moisture present may be quite high, such as with corn silage, or the feed can be quite dry as with dried distillers grains.

Comparing feeds on a dry matter basis on a cost per unit of energy (Total Digestible Nutrients, TDN) and on a cost per unit of protein (Crude Protein, CP) allows us to see which of these feeds may be most cost effective. In evaluating which feeds may be the best to buy, it is important also to include cost to handle and deliver the feed to the cattle as well as loss that occurs from the point of purchase to when the feed is actually consumed by the cow. Losses from hauling, storage and feeding waste can be quite significant. It is what actually gets consumed by the cow that counts! Comparing feeds on a cost per unit of energy and/or protein on a dry matter basis consumed by the cow gets us to the true bottom line.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension has an Excel® based spreadsheet called the Feed Cost Cow-Q-Lator that is available to help producers compare feeds to one another. The UNL NebGuide Feed Cost Cow-Q-Lator, G2214 (PDF version 349KB) helps explain how to use the tool and things producers should consider when comparing feeds to one another.

Aaron Berger, Extension Educator
Panhandle Research & Extension Center
University of Nebraska