Alternative Feeds for Beef Cattle

Background

Lack of pasture and hay production in many parts of Ontario this summer has resulted in tight hay supplies for winter. However, there are other options for feeding cattle. This article examines some of the possibilities by comparing the value of alternative feeds with hay priced at various levels. Producers can use this information to help make informed decisions regarding whether to buy hay or some combination of alternative feeds. Each proposed ration must be balanced for nutrient content (fibre,energy, protein, minerals, vitamins) to ensure it meets the needs of the cattle it is intended for.

For long term health, cattle should consume at least 0.5 % of their body weight per day as forage (dry matter basis). For example, a 1400 lb cow needs a minimum of 7.7 lbs of hay or 22 lbs of corn silage (as fed basis), along with the concentrate feeds required in their diet.

Table 1 compares alternative fibre sources for feeding value and economic value compared with hay priced at $175/tonne, based on their energy and protein content [Petersen's Equation].

Alternative Fibre Feeds

 

Table 1. Alternative Fibre Feeds Compared with Hay for Beef Cattle
(hay valued at $175/tonne [as fed] = 8 cents/lb = $64 for a 4x5 round bale*)
Feed Replacement Rate Relative to Hay
(lbs of feed to replace 1lb of hay [as fed])
Breakeven Price o
($ per tonne as fed)
Maximum Feeding Rate
(% of total diet)**
Storage Options Feeding Options y
Hay
1.0
$175
100%
Corn silage t,x
2.38
$74
60%
pile, silo, bunker, bag
feed bunk
Baled corn stover t
1.43
$122
40%
Bales
bale feeder
Wheat straw
1.56
$112
60%
Bales
bale feeder
Soybean straw
1.59
$110
60%
Bales
bale feeder
Soybean hulls
0.78
$224
50%
flat or bin (covered)
feed bunk

* 800 lbs as fed wt.
**dry matter basis
oYou could pay up to this amount per tonne and it would be a better value than hay @ $175/tonne
tPossible toxicity due to nitrate accumulation
xfor efficient transportation of this wet crop, maximum recommended haul time from field to storage is 30 minutes
yGround feeding may result in up to 30% loss.

Table 2 gives the breakeven prices for alternative fibre sources compared to buying hay at prices ranging from $25/tonne to $350/tonne, which is equivalent to [1.1 cents/lb to 15.9 cents/lb], and [$9/bale to $127/bale] (800 lb bale).

Table 2. Breakeven Price of Alternative Fibrous Feeds for Beef Cattle, Relative to Hay at Varying Prices*($/tonne, as fed basis)
Alternative Feed
Price of Hay ($/tonne, as fed basis)
  350 325 300 275 250 225 200 175 150 125 100 75 50 25
Corn silage† 147 137 126 116 105 95 84 74 63 53 42 32 21 11
Baled Corn stover

245 227 210 192 175 157 140 122 105 87 70 52 35 17
Wheat straw 224 208 192 176 160 144 128 112 96 80 64 48 32 16
Soybean straw 220 204 189 173 157 142 126 110 94 79 63 47 31 16
Soybean hulls

449 417 385 353 321 288 256 224 192 160 128 96 64 32
*Example: if hay cost $325/tonne, you could afford to pay up to $227 for baled corn stover and it would be a cheaper feed source than the hay.

Corn Stover Grazing

Grazing the corn stover left in the field after grain harvesting may be an option. This would require buying and installing temporary electric fencing, providing a water source and trucking cattle to and from the field. Strip grazing is the most effective way to utilize the stover. Table 3 estimates the value of corn stover as a feed source on a per acre basis, assuming it costs $50 an acre to set up and manage the field. Assuming that the grain harvest produced 120 bu/acre, strip grazing the stover should provide 60 cow days of grazing per acre. Depending on the size of the cobs and harvest conditions, there may be a significant amount of grain left in the field. In order to minimize the risk of bloat, make sure cows are full of feed before first turn out onto the corn stover field, provide some familiar dry hay for the first couple of days, and keep a close eye on them.

Table 3. Value of Corn Stover ($/acre) for Grazing Beef Cattle Relative to Buying Hay at Various Prices*#
Stover Value ($/acre)
Price of Hay, $/tonne (as fed basis)
350
325
300
275
250
225
200
175
150
125
100
75
50
25
135
122
109
96
82
69
56
43
29
16
3
-10
-24
-37

*Assumptions: 120 bu/acre grain yield, 6700lbsstover residue in field (80% dm), cows utilize 25% of residue [1670 lbs/acre].

#Corn stover value has been adjusted to reflect a $50/acre charge for fencing, water provision and management time. Does not include cost to transport cattle to and from field. Does not include charge for protein supplement which may be needed as season progresses.

One acre of stover would provide feed for 1 cow for 2 months, or 60 cow days per acre.

Energy and Protein Concentrate Feeds

Although beef cows are not usually fed much in the way of concentrates, they may be required when low quality roughages such as straw make up a large component of the diet. Table 4 gives the replacement rates for some concentrate feeds, relative to the energy and protein contained in average quality hay. It also estimates the breakeven price for these alternative feeds compared with hay valued at $175/tonne.

Table 4. Alternative Concentrate Feeds for Beef Cattle, Compared with Hay Valued at /tonne
($175/tonne [as fed] = 8 cents/lb = $60 for a 4X5 round bale*)
Feed Replacement Rate Relative to Hay (lbs of feed to replace 1 lb of hay [as fed])

Breakeven Price*

($/tonne as fed)

Max Feeding Rate

(% of total diet)**

Storage Options
Wheat shorts
0.75
$306
25%
flat or bin (covered)
Corn gluten feed (dry)
0.62
$310
50%
flat or bin (covered)
Distillers dried grains with solubles
0.50
$414
30%
flat (covered)
Brewers grains (wet)
2.44
$73
40%
pile, bunker, bag
Oats
0.81
$219
60%
flat or bin (covered)
Barley
0.76
$241
30%
flat or bin (covered)
Shelled Corn
0.81
$216
40%
flat or bin (covered)
Soymeal 48%
0.40
$438
15%
flat or bin (covered)
Wheat
0.73
$240
30%
flat or bin (covered)

Note: A feed bunk is required for concentrate feeds. Ground feeding may result in up to 30% loss.

*You could pay up to this amount per tonne and it would be a better value than buying hay @ $175/tonne
**dry matter basis

Table 5 gives the breakeven prices for concentrate feeds compared with buying hay at prices ranging from $25/tonne to $350/tonne, which is equivalent to [1.1 cents/lb to 15.9 cents/lb], and [$9/bale to $127/bale] (800 lb bale).

Table 5. Breakeven Price of Concentrate Feeds for Beef Cattle, Relative to Buying Hay at Various Prices *
Alternative Feed
Price of Hay, $/tonne (as fed)
350 325 300 275 250 225 200 175 150 125 100 75 50 25
Wheat shorts 467 433 400 367 333 300 267 233 200 167 133 100 67 33
Corn gluten feed (dry) 565 424 484 444 403 363 323 282 242 202 161 121 81 40
Distillers dried grains & solubles 700 650 600 550 500 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50
Brewers grains (wet) 143 133 123 113 102 92 82 72 61 51 41 31 20 10
Oats 432 401 370 340 309 278 247 216 185 154 123 93 62 31
Barley 461 428 395 362 329 296 263 230 197 164 132 99 66 33
Wheat 479 445 411 377 342 308 274 240 205 171 137 103 68 34

*see Table 4 for feeding limits for each feed.

These various alternative feeds can be used to stretch hay supplies or provide novel rations for beef cows. Producers should work with a feeds specialist prior to making dramatic ration changes. Any new feeds need to be introduced slowly to avoid digestive upset. It may take up to 2 weeks to complete the change if the 2 diets are very different.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Tom Hamilton - Beef Production Systems/OMAFRA;Ron Lackey - Feed Ingredients and By-product Feeding Specialist/OMAFRA;Christoph Wand - Beef/Sheep Nutritionist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 12 September 2012
Last Reviewed: 28 September 2015