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Resources and Options When Feed is Short

Updated June 10, 2020
Warren Rusche

Warren Rusche

Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Feedlot Specialist

hay bales lined up in a spring field

The transition from winter to spring can be challenging for livestock producers in the Northern Plains. While the rapidly melting snow is a welcome sight, green grass and new feed supplies are still on the horizon, leaving some producers with gaps in their feed supply or with the need to replenish bedding inventory. SDSU Extension offers resources to help producers find and evaluate feedstuffs to help meet their livestock’s needs.

Feed Cost Calculator

This decision tool allows producers to evaluate the value of two feedstuffs based on the cost per pound of delivered nutrients on a dry matter basis. Users need to know the dry matter content of both feeds, the nutrient composition on a dry matter basis (either from lab analysis or book values), and an estimate of shipping costs.

Once those values are entered, an output screen will report the cost of delivered nutrients (protein and energy) in dollars per ton of dry matter. The cheaper option for each nutrient will be highlighted.

Users should keep in mind that the tool only compares one nutrient at a time. Many diet formulation software packages will determine a break-even feed cost by simultaneously valuing the energy and protein components of a feedstuff. That is a more accurate approach, but for simple feed comparison questions such as “what is the cheapest source of supplemental protein” this tool will quickly provide at least a starting point to evaluate feed buying decisions.

SDSU Extension Feed & Forage Finder

Sometimes the biggest challenge is to find available feedstuffs, especially when supplies are limited. SDSU Extension launched a Facebook-based resource several years ago to help link sellers with buyers needing feed. The resource, SDSU Extension Feed & Forage Finder, exists as a Facebook group where members can list either feed resources or services for sale or post what items they are seeking to buy. The service is free and can be found on Facebook or by typing “SDSU Extension Feed & Forage Finder” in the search box on Facebook.

Just as when replying to an advertisement in a traditional format such as a classified ad, buyers and sellers alike should perform their own due diligence to make certain that both parties live up to their commitments.

Livestock Nutrition Expertise

Identifying and pricing additional feedstuffs may not go far enough in some instances. Ingredients need to be combined into a diet that meets the livestock’s nutritional requirements. SDSU Extension state and field specialists are available to help address those needs and design feeding programs to solve the unique problems arising this spring. A complete list of specialists can be found at the SDSU Extension Our Experts page.