Costly Inputs Cause Cattle Feeders to Look at Old Ideas

US - Market changes tell cattle feeders to take another look at what worked in the past. The rising cost of inputs make some of those dated theories more attractive today, according to Robbi Pritchard, South Dakota State University (SDSU) animal scientist.
calendar icon 15 February 2008
clock icon 2 minute read
“If we talked about stuff 20 years ago and people didn't pick it up,” he said, “it was either too big of a pain in the neck or corn was so cheap, we didn't need to chase another option.”

Pritchard addressed feeders at a seminar last fall co-sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health, Purina Mills, Feedlot magazine and Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB).

“The pricing scenario is different than it used to be,” he said.

Those feeding cattle or working with a custom feeder have an interest in getting cattle to market quicker with less feed. Most are already doing the big things that improve feed efficiency: feeding ionophores in a more energy-dense diet and using implants.

Now it's time to rethink some of the little things and more complicated options we have, Pritchard said.

Matching type of cattle to grain processing method could improve efficiency.

“There's an interaction between the kind of grain processing and the days on feed, the kind of cattle and how much they're going to be eating,” Pritchard said. “If you want to change efficiency, those numbers are huge.”

Research shows cattle fed for 150 or more days had better efficiencies on whole corn versus rolled corn. Short-fed cattle - 120 days or less - benefit from further grain processing.

“How come everybody that doesn't own a flaker rolls their corn? Can anybody give me a real good reason for spending money to reduce the energy content of your corn?” he said.

Pritchard said if a feedlot is flaking grain, tweaking the ration beyond what the computer models suggest might be a way to pick up value.

“Once you put in a flaker, how much do you play with that idea anymore?” he asked. “Maybe exploring the associative effects of flake grains, looking for optimums, can squeeze out some efficiency in the future.”

The example comes from earlier University of Nebraska research on positive associative effects. When moving from high-moisture corn to dry corn, the expectation would be higher intakes, higher feed-to-gain ratios, but higher average daily gain.

Source: Tri State Neighbor
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