Guide to a host of alternative feeds

There isn’t a drought in the immediate forecast for the Dakotas, and corn prices are not expected to skyrocket anytime soon. But it’s a good idea to keep an eye on alternative feeds. You can never tell when you might save money.

Guide to a host of alternative feeds

There isn’t a drought in the immediate forecast for the Dakotas, and corn prices are not expected to skyrocket anytime soon. But it’s a good idea to keep an eye on alternative feeds. You can never tell when you might save money.

“Ruminant animals can eat just about anything you can think of,” says Cody Wright, a South Dakota State University beef specialist.

Good alternative

Brothers Jeff and John Schultz, Freeman, S.D., keep close tabs on the price and availability of alternative feeds.

They often buy linted cottonseed, also know as “cotton fuzzy,” to feed to their dairy cows. Linted cottonseed is the seed left after long fibers from upland varieties of cotton are ginned. Short fibers remaining on the seed are called linters, which are a good source of readily digestible cellulose for ruminants. The amount of linters left on the seed varies from 4%-8%.

“If you just look at cotton fuzzy’s protein content, it’s not a good buy,” Jeff says. “Corn gluten has about the same protein content and generally costs $150 per ton less. But fuzzy is 91% digestible, contains 17% fat and is high in fiber. Fiber stimulates the rumen, resulting in about 4 pounds more milk per cow per day.”

Linted cottonseed is a byproduct of the cotton-ginning process, and ginners have to dispose of it. The only cost of limited cottonseed is in the shipping. Cows need to consume about 4 pounds in their ration to obtain its benefits. The brown fuzzballs covered with cotton are easily stored and handled.

“We contract fuzzy through commodity brokers who handle the dispatching,” Jeff says. “It’s a backhaul for truckers.”

Cows eat it like candy, Jeff adds, and don’t sort it out of the ration. Another benefit: Linted cottonseed helps maintain milk production when cows undergo heat stress.”

Feeding tips

Grain screenings, ag processing byproducts, food waste and even weeds can all be fed to cattle.

“Pencil it out,” advises Dale Blasi, a Kansas State University Extension beef specialist. “Consider every way to shave costs. Calculate shelf life in selecting alternative feeds. Nutrient-dense feeds may cost less overall. Verify how much nutrients deviate with each batch of alternative feed. Keep in mind that large amounts of nutrients, such as phosphorus, may be available in alternative feed and can build up in manure, which may require a plan to distribute those nutrients.”

When using alternative feeds, it is to sample each load of product to determine the nutrient content, Wright says.

“Understand diet limitations to avoid dietary disturbances. Always work with a nutritionist to know how to best incorporate alternative feeds into rations.”

“Find alternatives as close to home as possible,” adds Greg Lardy, a North Dakota State University beef specialist. “Be a conscientious shopper, and gather all the facts before selecting alternatives.”

Sorensen is from Yankton, S.D.

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Innovative: Jeff and John Schultz make good use of alternative feeds.

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Popular: Linted cottonseed stores well, and cattle like it, too.

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This article published in the April, 2014 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.

Hay/Forage Management

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