Is It More Efficient to Move the Cows Or Move the Feed?

Especially in times of drought or emergency feeding, producers have to consider which is more efficient to feed the herd: drylot feeding or hauling purchased forage. ( John Maday )

In areas of long-term drought, forage might have to come from areas far away from the affected area, out of state or multiple states away. Cost of transportation, type of forage and quality of forage all need to be considered in this decision.

If that is not economical, producers can consider limit feeding a high concentrate diet to cows in a drylot environment. In this case, an energy-dense ration based on grain or byproduct feeds such as distillers’ grains would be fed in limited quantity so that the cows receive adequate nutrition to maintain BCS, but not enough to get fat. Because the diet is essentially a finishing diet for feedlot cattle, careful management is needed to avoid nutritional disorders such as acidosis.

A calculator from the South Dakota State University can help producers make the comparison. Download the Excel worksheet here.

The tool will help calculate the total tonnage of feed needed, estimate shipping costs of both feed stuffs and cattle and determine the yardage at a feedlot versus on the ranch.

Evaluating Feed Options

There are many feedstuffs producers can use in their cow-calf operation during drought or feed shortages. Producers should compare the new options based on price per unit of the feedstuffs, the milage and cost of delivery, as well as feed values.

To compare the options, SDSU’s Feed Nutrient Calculator can evaluate feedstuff costs, on a nutrient basis, to identify the least-cost rations for their livestock enterprises.