Which Feed Is A Better Value? Here’s a Calculator to Help Figure it Out.

From October of 2016, here’s a timely article to help you get the most for your money.

There are a variety of reasons why you might decide to feed or supplement grazing cattle in the fall and winter. One might be providing a little extra for a pasture that doesn’t meet your herd’s nutritional needs. Another reason is you might have hit a drought and winter feed is in short supply. Or maybe that’s just how you do things. Whatever the reason, 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 in numbers, I made you a little Xcel spreadsheet calculator to do that.

Here you go. Just click on the picture and download it:


What Do Your Livestock Need?

You also know that different livestock have different nutritional requirements through the winter. No matter what, you need to meet your herd’s needs. Feeding very poor hay can limit production significantly.

So once you’ve compared costs of the feeds available, you’ll also think about what your operation needs to keep the livestock healthy through the winter. That may mean that price isn’t the only factor. Or, if the price is right, you might choose a lower-quality, less-expensive feed and then buy an additional supplement for those livestock that need it. You can use the calculator or the formulas to figure the added cost of the supplement to see what that does to your bottom line.

If you’re anything like me, this whole process may make your head feel a little tight with all the thinking you’re doing. But it will be worth it in the end, and hopefully this calculator makes it a little easier for you.

Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible. Click on over to see the great work they do for all of us. Thank them for supporting On Pasture by liking their facebook page.

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