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Feeding loss: Feeding can impact bottom line

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

With feed resources at record high prices this winter, producers feeding cattle need to do what they can to minimize waste. Dan Loy with Iowa State University said feed waste can significantly increase the cost of feed itself.
    To demonstrate, he showed a chart where corn silage was purchased for $60 a ton. If 10 percent of that corn silage is lost in storage and feeding, that ton of silage increased to $66.67. At a 20 percent loss, it increased to $75 a ton.
    “Controlling storage loss can control the price you pay for feed,” Loy explained. “It is a significant economic factor.”
    This year, with prices of grain and hay at near record highs, and byproducts also expensive, Loy said producers will find very few bargains out there where feed prices are concerned.
    “The fact that corn has reached and exceeded $8 a bushel has made it challenging for beef producers,” he said. “This is a year when you should be asking yourself if you are as efficient as you could be.”
Feeding strategies
    Loy said he sees two strategies that go into being efficient.
    The first has to do with management factors, like the use of feed additives, implants, beta agonists, ionophores, grain processing, corn co-products, health management, timely marketing, cattle comfort and facilities, genetics, ration energy level, roughage levels and step up programs.
    The second strategy involves improving feed efficiency before the cattle get the feed, which involves feed delivery, management and transportation.
    “These are the losses that occur before the feed gets to the bunk,” he said.
Feed shrink
    Loy shared expected feed shrink losses.
    Commercial feed mills typically have less than one percent, while dry commodities have a two to four percent shrink. Uncovered piles have 10 to 25 shrink, commodity sheds have five to 10 percent and bulk bins, two to five percent.
    Different types of feeds also vary in shrink with alfalfa or ground hay having four to 10 percent, high moisture corn, two to nine percent, and corn silage stored in a bunker, five to 50 percent.
    The key to managing shrink is manage, measure and monitor, Loy said.
    “Measure the feed stuff as it goes into storage, continually monitor it after it is in storage, make improvements where you can, and manage for storage losses and shrink,” he commented.
Managing shrink
    Shrink can be managed, Loy continued, by harvesting feed at the proper moisture level. Corn silage, for example, should be harvested at 60 to 70 percent moisture, he said. High moisture corn should be harvested at 26 to 32 percent and 60 to 65 percent for hay silage.
    “It is important to harvest these crops at the proper moisture so the packing density is correct,” he said. “Ideal is 15 to 20 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot using a large, single-track tractor packing six to 10 inches.”
    Loy noted if producers are making silage, the use of an oxygen barrier can significantly reduce pile losses.
Other management concerns
    Face management can also be instrumental in reducing waste. Loy encouraged producers to determine the depth and amount of feed they need for the day, and then chip down with the bucket blade one section at a time starting from the bottom.
    “Scoop out the lowest section first,” he said. “Try to avoid having a loose pile of silage that air can move through and spoil within a few days.”
    Other management areas Loy said producers should pay attention to are birds and rodents.
    “Some research has shown that starlings can consume about two pounds of feed per month,” he explained. “A flock can be several hundred to several thousand birds. It can really add up.”
    If producers have problems with birds, they may want to look into frightening devices, habitat management and toxins.
    To control rodents, it is important to keep the front of the bunks clean and maintained, showing little signs of feed loss.
    “Keep the feeding area clean to reduce the possibility of rodents,” he added.
    Some final thoughts Loy shared with producers is to try and reduce spillage from the pile to the feed truck or wagon, seek out local feed bargains, be efficient by staying up to date on new technology and strategies, minimize and account for storage and feeding losses and account for feed losses and shrink in budgeting and billing.
    For more information, Loy can be reached by Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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