Finding the right feed for a flock or herd is important
Feed is one of the largest and most impactful investments a producer will make into their flock or herd. Choosing the right feed to develop high-value market animals and support profit margins can be a fine line to walk.
“One may be leaving a lot of opportunity on the table if they only look at the total cost per bag or ton of feed to make nutritional decisions,” says Clay Elliott, PhD and small ruminant nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “Understanding cost per head per day can help a producer better understand their feed investment and find value they might not even realize they’re missing out on.”
Producers can identify feed cost efficiencies and add value to their flock or herd by understanding how feed intake and cost per head per day impact their bottom line.
Digging deeper into feed intake
The recommended feeding rate can make a big difference in how far an individual’s nutrition investment goes.
“If a producer has to feed two pounds per head per day of a commodity feed to get the same body condition as a complete feed with a 0.5 pound per head per day feeding rate, which one is actually the better value?” asks Elliott.
Producers can find the true value of their feed investment by calculating cost per head per day for their operation.
To do this, divide total pounds of feed purchased by total feed per day to get the total number of days of feed.
Then, divide total cost per ton or bag by total number of days of feed to get total feed cost per day.
Lastly, divide total feed cost per day by total head to get cost per head per day.
By using these calculations, one might find a higher-priced product could pencil out to a better value.
Understanding feed intake is not only important when evaluating feed cost, but it can also play a role in animal health and maintaining ideal body condition.
For example, when group feeding, boss ewes can be at risk for overconsumption while more timid ewes may not reach ideal feed intake levels, leading to over or underconditioned animals.
“Controlling feed intake supports consistent intake, which can help reduce the chance of disruptions to the rumen and ensure animals stay within recommended body condition scores,” says Elliott.
“Purina has extensively researched our Intake Modifying Technology to condense nutrition into low consumption rates to manage intake while still ensuring animals receive the nutrients they need to perform,” Elliott adds. “They only eat what they need.”
Making the most of commodity blends
Every operation is different, and what works well for a neighboring operation might not be the right choice. This is why it’s important to calculate the cost per head per day based on a specific operation. Feeding a commodity blend might make more sense for a business when putting pen to paper.
If producers feed a commodity blend to their flock or herd, they should make sure they’re getting the most from it.
“Feeding straight corn or a commodity blend can leave gaps in nutrition which could result in reduced market value of animals,” says Elliott. “Supplementing commodity feed with a balancer can help reduce the nutrition gap and provide additional benefits such as fly control or health and wellness support.”
Ultimately, choosing the right feed is about more than just cost.
Producers should ask themselves the following questions: What are my animal growth and performance goals? Am I reaching return-on-investment goals when marketing animals? Do I have my own commodities or access to consistent, well-priced commodities? What feed storage and labor availability do I have? Am I having challenges with animal health or reproductive performance that could be addressed with changes to my rations?
Spending some time to pencil out cost per head per day and evaluate the most efficient and impactful ration for a flock or herd can go a long way in positively impacting a producer’s bottom line.
Purina Animal Nutrition, LLC is a national organization serving producers, animal owners and their families through more than 4,700 local cooperatives, independent dealers and other retailers throughout the U.S.