Farm Progress

Know feed amount and costs, and refine the nutrition plan to make financial sense.

November 24, 2017

2 Min Read
IN FRONT: Cows may need additional supplement during the winter months. It is important to know just how much feed is required, and what it costs in order to make it pencil into the bottom line.


Missouri beef producers have it good when it comes to feed resources, says Eric Bailey, University of Missouri Extension nutritionist.

Bailey, who is new to Missouri, can tell what cow owners face in New Mexico, Texas and Kansas. “I’ve seen lots of prairie hay with no nutrient value at all,” he says. But he finds cattle producers in the Show-Me State have access to many distillers byproducts and alternative feeds.

“I want herd owners to think feeding systems,” he says. “First, they must think feed intake.”

Feeding the right mix
Owners must have some idea on what is enough. Also, they need to know what is too much, he says.

For example, a 1,400-pound cow eats 36 pounds of feed per day. Multiply that by 30 for forage per month. Then extend that for a year. That’s 12,960 pounds. “Now think 7 tons per cow for the year. Then allow for waste loss,” Bailey says.

To put a frame on mineral mixes, do similar figures. Mineral bag labels state an average consumption of 4 ounces per head per day. That’s 91.25 pounds for a year. That’s two 50-pound bags of supplement.

“Start with getting feed intake right,” Bailey says. That’s for grazing or rolling out hay bales.

“Get feed out in front of them,” he says. “If you feed a cow only 2 pounds a day, it doesn’t matter how good the ration. She’ll lose body condition.”

Know your feed costs
Next, Bailey wants producers to know their feed costs. A cow pays for her feed with one calf per year. “If you spend more than the price of one calf, you lose money.”

Nutrition must stay in the framework of one cow having one calf. “If a calf sells for $750, that’s all you can spend for all costs of production that year.”

After starting with the big picture, particularly on feed intake and cost, Bailey can help farmers refine a ration. That can improve production while keeping expenses under control.

Source: University of Missouri Extension

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