Feeding is the most important and probably the most confusing part of raising cattle.The cattle feeding business is not easy and that's why we are here to help.
Types of Cattle Feed and Minerals
Cattle feed comes in three forms (or combination of the forms):
Pelletized cattle feed has the ingredients milled and formed into pellets.
Sweet feed comes in the form of fresh grains plus pellets
Block feed has the ingredients milled and formed into solid blocks.
Minerals come in two forms:
Loose minerals can be offered by a separate mineral feeder or added to feed just as people can put salt on food.
Block minerals are solid blocks that the animals lick.
Several ways to cut cattle feeding costs:
* Purchase cost. Purchase cost often is the largest single cost associated with a finished beef animal. Careful budgeting prior to purchase is extremely important in times of narrow margins. Good records of previous close-outs and past history of cattle from a source is useful in projecting cattle performance. Often the cheapest cattle may not be the most profitable depending on performance and efficiency. Use realistic cost and price projections when budgeting for new feeder cattle, and pay close attention to market conditions. Periods of low prices and price volatility can create opportunities for the astute cattle buyer.
* Feed bunk management. Managing feed bunks more closely can improve efficiency by reducing the incidence of low level acidosis on high grain rations. Using a bunk scoring system, or some method to reduce feed waste, can pay greater dividends during periods of high grain costs. An added benefit may be more consistent performance and better efficiency by eliminating the day-to-day variation in feed consumption. Good feed bunk management also includes proper feed mixing and accurate weighing of feed ingredients. Look for an updated fact sheet on feed bunk management coming soon from the Iowa Beef Center.
* Alternative feedstuffs. Even with low-cost corn, alternative feeds may help lower costs. Your best bet is to look locally for feeds that may have a transportation cost advantage in your ration. Corn coproducts may still be an opportunity but changes in the ethanol industry have introduced variability and changes in value.
* Feed additives. Ionophores like Bovatec, Cattylst, and Rumensin will improve efficiency 4 to 10 percent, depending on the type of ration fed. As feed costs increase, the payback for improved efficiency is much greater. Optaflexx (a beta-agonist) will improve carcass gain in the last 28 days of feeding.
* Implants. Implant technologies and strategies can improve efficiency 10 to 15 percent. Learn about the differences in implants and choose the one that matches your cattle and management practices.
* Marketing. Limited beef supplies in recent months have encouraged heavier market weights. Timely marketing can significantly reduce the cost of production however. The trade-offs between cost of gain, increased dressing percentage and carcass value changes need to be continually monitored.
*Good records. Monitoring feedlot performance and costs allows producers to make midcourse corrections. This is particularly important as feed costs rise and cattle prices change. Knowing current costs of production is essential to making timely marketing and management decisions. Several feed companies and veterinarians provide feedlot monitoring as a service. The ISU Feedlot Monitoring Software version 3.0 is now available for this purpose. Learn more about this program on the Iowa Beef Center website.
* Do the little things. Basic management that requires little more than time can pay big rewards in improving efficiency when feed costs are high. These include routine water maintenance and cleaning, feeding cattle at the same time every day, handling cattle to reduce stress, and maintaining quality control on feed ingredients.