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Cowbytes helpful for matching nutritional needs

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

A study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that the average cost per mature cow for feed is approximately $553 per year.

With such a large proportion of ranch input costs going toward feed, it can be beneficial for producers to use ration balancing tools to ensure that they are matching the nutritional needs of their herd.

One of the choice programs that University of Wyoming Beef Extension Specialist Steve Paisley recommends to producers is the Cowbytes system.


“Cowbytes is a ration evaluation program that’s produced by the University of Alberta in Canada,” says Paisley.

While the system does not find the least cost ration or include a pricing calculator, Paisley explains, “It simply helps us balance rations based on the cow’s requirements.”

The Cowbytes program is able to utilize a wide array of input data to make ration balancing decisions.

“When we type in the animal, we can put in weight, estimate breed composition and note whether or not we’re feeding ionophores or using implants,” he continues.

In addition to information about the specific animal, Cowbytes also takes into consideration certain environmental factors.

“Cowbytes also adjusts for temperature and wind speed. It’ll increase an animal’s requirements during cold weather,” notes Paisley.


Using a ration balancer such as Cowbytes can be particularly beneficial for helping producers assess how economical their programs are.

“For any cow/calf producer, backgrounding yards or anyone with a dry lot, it’s a chance to figure out if we’re close to meeting that animal’s requirements,” says Paisley. “We can develop rations to make sure we’re meeting their requirements and achieving the gains that we want.”

The Cowbytes program is well-complemented by utilizing a forage analysis, he continues.

“It really works well along with forage analysis, so hopefully we’re getting our forages analyzed and getting some results back. In this program, we can type in our forage analysis results and use the program to balance for stage of production, such as late gestation or lactation,” comments Paisley.

Set apart

According to Paisley, there are three primary factors that separate the Cowbytes system from other ration balancing programs.

“One factor is it’s very easy to use. It’s a stand-alone program, but it feels very much like an Excel spreadsheet. It’s pretty easy to navigate through and pretty easy to follow,” explains Paisley.

The Cowbytes system also has the capability to balance rations for all types of cattle.

“It’s one of the few programs that works for not only growing cattle but also mature cattle, as well as bulls,” he continues.

The final feature Paisley comments on is the system’s capability to take environmental factors into consideration.

“It’s one of the few programs that makes adjustments for temperature, which for us, especially this year, has been a prime example of making sure we adjust and meet the animal’s requirements during really cold weather,” comments Paisley.


Producers interested in trying the program are able to download a trial version off of the University of Alberta’s website at$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex12486.

“Downloading the program online is probably the easiest way to get it,” says Paisley.

If producers decide that they would like to purchase the program, there are multiple options for ordering.

“We can contact them at 780-427-0391 or online to purchase a license number to type in to activate our program,” Paisley continues.

The starting cost of the program is approximately $50, with a different program available for purchase for Mac computers.

Staff has compiled a variety of tutorials for using the Cowbytes system online, with topics such as entering data on a five-month pregnant cow, a backgrounding calf, using the water analysis section and how to configure Cowbytes 5.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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