Economic Factors of No-Roughage Feeding

James Grothe, Dairy Beef Specialist

Corn has been at a record high value over the past few months; consequently producers are considering other types of feeding programs rather than the Precision Dairy Beef (PDB) or NRB programs for dairy beef. Before the decision is finalized, there are number of factors that need to be considered. In this process, remember that each operation has different goals and what might work for one will not for another. Factors to consider are:

  • Feed Efficiency (FE) and the Resulting Cost per Lb. of Gain: In a recently completed trial comparing cattle performance on the PDB and NRB feeding program and distiller diet feeding program, feed efficiency was better with the PDB and NRB. The economics of this FE advantage depends on the pricing of the feedstuffs.
  • Dry Matter Loss: This hasn’t been a big number because the value/costs of feedstuffs have been low, but now with higher-valued feedstuffs, dry matter loss becomes a significant cost. For example, if a 10-ton load of wet distillers is purchased and 9 tons is fed, the actual cost of the wet distillers increased 10%. Many times this dry matter loss is not figured into the cost of the ration. With PDB and NRB rations, the DM loss is very minimal.
  • Market Weight: Feeding the grain/pellet diets allows marketing at a lighter weight (i.e.; 1300 lb.) compared to feeding grain and corn silage or distillers. The lighter the weight that the cattle are marketed, the better the feed efficiency for the group. It will also increase the amount of beef produced for the entire farm.
  • Cost to Operate Feedlots: The fuel cost to operate a feeder wagon and loader to feed cattle grain/silage or distiller rations has increased about $0.03 head/day. On the other hand, the cost of mixing corn and pellets weekly and filling feeders has increased only slightly.
  • Cost of feed storage and feed inventory.
  • Cost of Manure Removal: This cost is less for corn/pellet rations. The feeding of corn/pellet rations approximately halves the amount of manure compared to that of conventional feed rations including grain and silage.
  • Labor: With corn/pellet rations, labor cost is considerably lower due to less feeding time and less total care time.

The economic value for these factors will vary for each operation so it needs to be evaluated for each producer to ensure the best profitability. Kent offers the best feeding programs for all types of available feedstuffs. However, right now is a great time to talk to producers about looking at corn/pellet rations this fall. Precision Dairy Beef and NRB programs, while continually being researched, have proven to be one of the most efficient ways to feed dairy beef.