In the last issue we began a review of some of the commodity and by-product feeds that are available for cattlemen to use in supplementing cows, calves, growing bulls and heifers, stocker cattle, etc. Before we continue this review I felt it would be useful to examine some cost comparisons on a number of these feeds and ingredients.
In the feeding industry, corn and soybean meal are the standards. Virtually everything else is compared against the protein and energy values and the subsequent market costs of these two commodities. Under most (not all) situations the cost of these two products drives the cost of other commodities. As I mentioned this is not always the case. In many instances supply and demand as well as constantly changing markets will create situations where, for a time, some of the other commodities will not be as good of a buy as corn and soybean meal. This is primarily true when, due to rising corn and beanmeal prices, producers will begin aggressively buying other commodities to meet their needs. In some cases they may contract their supply at a given price, only to find after a period of time that the cost of corn, beanmeal and other commodities has dropped below what the contract price was that they had set and they end up paying more than what the market is for a period of time. This is why it's important to know where the markets are and pay attention to trends, supplies, etc.
The following table, adapted from data developed by Poore at North Carolina State shows the relative feeding value of a number of feeds available in many areas. This assumes that corn is $3 per bushel ($107.00 per ton plus a $14 per ton grinding charge) and $200 per ton of high protein soybean meal (48 percent crude protein). The feeding values also include handling costs. Grains generally need to be ground, while most of the other feeds in the table require no processing. Relative value in the table is the value of each ingredient compared to the price of corn. These numbers can be used to determine ingredient values when the price of corn is higher or lower than $3 per bushel.
To find the best values, you will need to calculate the percentage of these values that you have to pay. If you have access to high-quality forages, either harvested or grazed, you probably have plenty of protein, therefore you'll only need to look at the energy values. If you have low-to-medium quality forage or corn silage, you will be interested in the value for both protein and energy, so use those values.
Let's look at an example. Suppose you decide to consider using wheat midds to supplement average-quality forage, and you find you can purchase it at $85 per ton. This is only 66 percent of what it is worth based on its protein and energy, so it is a good deal. On the other hand, if dried brewer's grain is $120 per ton, it costs 94 percent of the value, which is not nearly as good a deal. Though corn gluten feed is more expensive than wheat midds, it is still a bargain because it has higher protein and you can reduce the amount of soybean meal purchased. If you can get corn gluten feed at $110 per ton, that would be only 73 percent of its value. If you want to buy a truckload of a commodity, talk to a commodity broker and find out the price of each ingredient. Then use the table to estimate the best value. Be aware, however that there is considerable variation in the composition of some of the commodities, so it is best to deal with a reputable broker.
Something we have discussed here before is that whether you purchase commodities or complete feeds, you will be able to reduce your costs significantly if you buy in bulk and avoid the handling charges associated with bagged feed. One question that is sometimes raised is how many cattle would be needed to justify buying commodities in truckloads. A fully loaded semitrailer carries about 45,000 to 50,000 pounds. If, for instance, the cattle would be fed 5 pounds a day, a truckload would last 75 head for four months. Avoid storing feed for more than four months because of potential losses due to moisture, rodents, etc. If your operation is not this large, consider splitting a load with a neighbor or family member who also raises cattle. Large-scale producers will see better results if they use several ingredients that are balanced to meet nutrient requirements. That is because the combined feed value of a mixture is greater than any of the ingredients fed separately. As we've mentioned before, there is no one perfect ingredient for feeding or supplementing cattle.
Back to the Ranch
OK, all that being said, let's get back to our original discussion of the various feeds and ingredients available to us. In the last issue we discussed Corn Gluten Feed and Soy Hulls, both of which are very common in the cattle feeding world. Two other ingredients that are quite common, especially in the Southern United States are Wheat Midds and Rice Bran. Let's take a moment and consider these two.
A very common ingredient in the feed industry, wheat midds are a co-product of milling wheat for flour. Wheat midds generally include screenings, bran, germ, and flour remnants and typically contain higher levels of fiber, protein, and minerals than wheat grain but less starch. Wheat midds vary in quality due to such factors such as grain source, milling plant and milling method. Protein quantity can also vary from fourteen to eighteen percent protein on a dry matter basis. The protein in wheat midds is considered to be high in rumen degradability with a bypass value of around twenty-three percent. Although high fiber levels are normally associated with low energy values, the fiber in wheat midds is highly digestible by cattle. The energy value of wheat midds is less than oats but higher than legume hay. The fiber in the particle size of the fiber is extremely small, so the fiber in wheat midds is less effective in rumen stimulation and cannot be considered a complete replacement for forage.
Wheat midds are high in phosphorous, near one percent, and potassium. In addition, they are a good source of several trace minerals including copper, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Like most grains, wheat midds are low in calcium. It is important to pay attention to calcium levels when high levels of wheat midds are fed. For example, calcium can be supplemented with the addition of ground limestone or a high calcium commercial feedlot mineral.
Wheat midds can be purchased as a loose meal or pellets. The meal is fine, dusty, and can be difficult to handle. Pelleting wheat midds greatly increases the density, which improves handling with transportation and feed mixing equipment. Pelleting doubles bulk density to about 40 pounds per cubic foot thus more can be loaded on a truck or stored in a bin or other storage area. As with any pellet, minimize augering to decrease the accumulation of fines.
Pelleted wheat midds do not always "behave" like normal storage grains. Extended storage in warm, moist weather can result in bridging and spoilage. Wheat midd pellets readily take on moisture, swell, soften, and lose their ability to flow when exposed to high humidity. Bin-stored wheat midd pellets placed in storage at 14 percent moisture and 85 degrees F have been shown to lose flowability after a period of several weeks so it is important to not store this product for extended periods of time, especially in warm humid weather.
Wheat midds are relatively palatable and are readily consumed by all classes of cattle. Feed manufacturers often include wheat midds as an ingredient in commercial feeds and supplements, especially as an ingredient in cubes and pellets of various types. Since wheat midds contain higher levels of fiber and reduced levels of starch when compared to common grain sources, digestive disturbances are less of a concern. However, the finely processed starch that remains (ranging from 17 to 45 percent by weight) and the small particle size of fiber would indicate gradually increasing the amount of wheat midds to be fed. Do not give unadapted cattle free access to wheat midds. Generally feeding up to 1 percent of body weight as wheat midds will not cause digestive problems if adequate roughage is available.
Rice bran is produced from the physical abrasion and separation of the hull from rice grain during the rice milling process. The rice grain is then used for human consumption. Rice bran is produced when hull and fragments of the hull are blended with some of the germ. Rice bran contains about 10 to 12 percent fat, 12 percent fiber and 12 percent protein. The high fat content may make it more susceptible to rancidity during summer storage so care must be given when periods of extended storage may be imminent. Rice bran is finely ground and may not flow readily and it tends to stack vertically. Rice bran blends well with other feedstuffs for mechanical handling and fits well into blended rations. Feed four to eight pounds per cow per day and 10 percent to 20 percent in feedlot diets. Rice bran is a by-product of the milling of rice. It consists mostly of the bran layer and germ of the rice with some fragments of hull and broken rice.
It is very common to note high calcium levels in rice bran and the calcium level in rice bran will vary with the amount of calcium carbonate added at the mill. When the amount of added calcium carbonate exceeds 3 percent (total calcium exceeds 1.2 percent), then the percentage of calcium carbonate must be stated in the product name (on the tag).
Rice bran is similar to oats in crude protein, fat, fiber and energy. It is a palatable feedstuff, which can be included in the grain mixture at a rate of up to 25 percent or fed at a rate of up to 8 pounds (3.6 kg) per cow per day.
Once again, we find a couple of additional feed ingredients that can be fed acceptably to beef cattle as a source of protein and energy. In the next issue we'll continue this review and discussion.
From my family to yours we hope you have had a blessed Christmas celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We hope you have the very best New Years ever!
Dr. Steve Blezinger is a nutritional and management consultant with an office in Sulphur Springs, TX. He can be contacted at Route 4 Box 89 Sulphur Springs, TX 75482, by phone at (903) 885-7992 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.