Buying Feed? Here’s How You Can Compare Them To Choose the Best Value

We first ran this in October of 2016. It's just as timely now given that many folks had a droughty summer and may be looking at feed for the winter. Let's say you had a droughty year and winter feed is in short supply.  One option is to reduce your herd size to match the amount of feed you have. We've written about that here. Another option is to buy feed. Knowing that the cost to feed a cow can be the largest percentage of your annual production costs, you'll naturally look for the best feed you can find for the lowest price. The problem is that different feeds have different dry matter, crude protein and total digestible nutrients (TDN). So when comparing several options, knowing the price per ton of TDN or Crude Protein will help you compare apples to apples. As an example, let's say you have a choice between low-quality hay that is 88% dry matter (DM) and is 6% crude protein (CP) of the dry matter (as-fed dry matter). That costs $56 per ton. There's also alfalfa/grass hay at 88% dry matter and 16% crude protein for $180 a ton.  Here's what the math looks like for comparing the cost per pound:   If the value of the hay is provided in Total Digestible Nutrients, you would replace the Crude Protein percentage with the TDN percentage. The math isn't hard, and if you remember the formula, it's something you can do on the back of an envelope while you're out looking at feed. Or, if you're in front of your computer and just want to be able to plug i

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2 thoughts on “Buying Feed? Here’s How You Can Compare Them To Choose the Best Value

  1. When you are trying to make it through a drought without spending the equivalent of what it would cost to replace a cow you have to look at ways to cut back. Will your cows suffer as a result? That depends. If you supplement the lower quality feed with something else that you have readily available and it’s free (such as cactus), it will provide the extra protein and fiber that is needed so your cows won’t decline. The key difference is, are you willing to do the extra work? Most people are not. I have found I can buy feed lot feed at half the price of cubes. Granted it has 6% less protein, but the price justifies it. Remember it is just to get your through the drought. In Texas, I have seen ranchers that have had to sell the ranch because they couldn’t afford to buy the (high dollar) replacement cows after they sold them on the decline (low dollar) because of the drought. Just another point of view.

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