By Ken Bolton
Now that spring planting is nearing completion, dairy and livestock producers may be looking for better feed buys than $6 corn and $360 soybean meal currently offers. Generally speaking, #2 shelled corn and 44% soybean meal provide starch and crude protein, respectively, at the lowest price compared to other competing sources of these nutrients. However, the answer to the question if other good buys are available may surprise some of us.
The UW-Extension FeedVal spreadsheet considers the market prices of shelled corn, soybean meal, feed grade limestone and Dicalcium Phosphate to determine the values of energy, protein, calcium and phosphorous provided by these commodity feedstuffs respectively. It then uses these values to calculate comparative nutrient values of several other feedstuff alternatives. FeedVal does not "price" these alternatives but rather compares their nutrient values to the reference feeds that are considered to be the lowest cost source of the four major nutrients mentioned above. It, therefore, allows livestock mangers to determine whether the market prices of alternative feeds are competitive with the value of nutrients they provide.
For example, if you're in the midst of deciding whether to cut hay at its peak value or to delay harvest until the beans are planted or the corn is sprayed, the comparative value of alfalfa harvested at the bud stage is worth $254/Ton versus $195/T at full bloom. This is based on the values for corn and bean meal listed above along with Feed Grade Limestone at $11.19/cwt and DiCal at $34.38/cwt.Those looking to purchase hay may also utilize these nutrient values to compare the price of alternative forage sources. Be sure to use up-to-date local market values for the reference feeds at the time you make comparisons.
FeedVal also calculates the nutrient values of various grains and protein sources. As of the middle of May it looked as though malt sprouts, dry corn gluten feed and distiller's grains might represent economical buys depending on the nutrient needs of your animals, availability and delivery costs. Also competitive were soy hulls and canola meal. Although this analysis indicates that whole cottonseed is not competitive from the nutrients supplied, the added benefits of highly digestible effective fiber and an energy source other than starch are not valued in this calculation. It also substitutes pound for pound in dairy rations for either high quality forage or for grain. Cottonseed may very well be an economical buy for your dairy cattle when these benefits are considered.
If you're in a feed buying mode or are wondering about the effect of timeliness on forage values this harvest season, consider this information provided by this UW-Extension resource. Please contact me at the UW-Extension, Jefferson County Office at 920-674-7196 to customize your comparative analysis. All that is needed are the prices of the reference commodities listed above as well as the nutrient analysis of the feed you're interested in comparing. Several book values are already built into the spreadsheet.
- Ken Bolton is the Jefferson County Extension dairy and livestock agent.