Take Time to Evaluate Current Ingredient and Ration Costs

Randy Rosenboom, Field Specialist

Last fall, we looked at creating silage grower rations with reduced value drought silage. Since then, corn has gotten cheaper and most byproducts have not followed suit. I have spent a fair amount of time with my feedlot customers discussing what kind of feed conversion improvements it would take to feed more corn than we have in the past.

Most of my customers are already feeding more corn than last year for the very reason outlined above. However, as corn continues to drift down, the benefits of feeding extremely high levels of ethanol co-products is vanishing. Make no mistake; byproducts are still a good source of energy and protein. In most cases, the producer can still save money by feeding enough byproduct to supply adequate protein and then use KNG balancers as opposed to feeding a completely conventional ration with a 40-30 type product. But the days of saving money by feeding byproducts to “replace” corn are probably gone, at least for the time being.

When feedlots were buying WDG and syrup for a little more than half the value of corn, we could suffer quite a bit poorer F/G and still be money ahead by feeding the high levels of byproducts.
A recent real example follows. I will present only the byproduct and corn levels for simplicity’s sake.

Current Ration (% of As-Fed Ration) Proposed Ration (% of As-Fed Ration)
No. 2 Corn 21
WDG 22 17
Syrup 34 24
HM Ear Corn 22.5 22.5
Cost/cwt As-Fed $ 6.23 7.83
Cost/cwt DM $ 11.91 13.05
Cost/ton DM $ 238.20 261.00

As you can see, the current ration is more than $20/ton of dry matter cheaper than the proposed ration. At face value, it would seem difficult for the proposed ration to be more economical than the current. I have always tried to maintain at least 30% of the DM as actual “corn.” The first diet provides 32% of the DM as earlage. The second diet provides 58% of the DM as a combination of earlage and shelled corn.

The table below presents a projection of potential performance and costs if the cattle eat exactly the same DM and the proposed ration provides only a 6% improvement in feed conversion.

Current Proposed
Starting Weight 634 634
Finishing Weight 1500 1500
ADG 2.99 3.19
DMI 21.4 21.4
F/G 717 674
$/cwt Gain 106.45 103.89
Sale BE 131.52 130.06

Now, we can’t guarantee this result, but I strongly believe improving F/G by 6% is quite realistic. The added benefit of improving F/G if the cattle eat exactly the same is we pick up .2 pounds on ADG, which obviously reduces days on feed, which reduces our non-feed costs.

Every feedlot and situation is different, but I have picked up a couple of customers because their current supplier got lulled to sleep thinking that the high level of byproducts we have become accustomed to feeding in NW Iowa is still the right thing to do. You also need to be somewhat aware of the basis in your market area because I can have a 20-30 cent variation in cash corn price within a fairly small area.