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Fenceline

by Jody G. Holthaus
Meadowlark Extension Agent

There’s just something about the fair dust, even a few weeks after the fair, I’m finding it everywhere. I think it’s part dirt, part manure, part sawdust, part sweat and tears. You’d think after working 30 fairs, I’d get used to it.

FarmingMy experience with “fair dust,” late hours and questionable hygiene of a 16-year-old boy, was my motivation. The first day of the fair, my youngest son had a nasty patch of poison ivy on his leg, you know the oozing red kind. I told him “go to the clinic and get a shot.” He came back with some ointment.

Really, ointment at the fair? Now, two weeks later, after it spread to his arm and his neck, it ended up in his eye. My sister, the RN, tells me doctors don’t like to be told what to do. But they’ve never experienced “fair dust.”

From the middle of June 2010 to the middle of June 2011, the price of corn more than doubled. During the same period, soybean prices increased nearly 50 percent. The result of these price changes has influenced the cost of cow feed in a similar magnitude. When the impacts of drought and reduced hay supplies are also considered, it paints a bleak picture for cow-calf producers. Therefore, it is necessary that cattlemen in all sectors of the industry pay close attention to how they manage purchased feed expense for winter months.

If a producer is fortunate enough to only need to consider protein supplement for the cow herd, then calculating their alternatives based on protein cost is appropriate. A list of potential feeds might include: wheat midds, whole cotton seed, range cubes, dried distillers grains, corn gluten feed, alfalfa hay and maybe others. Some of these products will require special storage or handling, making them logistically unusable for some producers. Each producer will need to develop a list based on their individual constraints.

How should a producer evaluate the options? Many will consider the price per ton of the product and go with the lowest price, which is typically not the most economical choice. Since most natural source proteins are equally usable by cows, then price per pound of protein is a good method to determine the best buy. This assumption is not appropriate for feeds that contain non-protein nitrogen or lower digestibility natural proteins.

To compare the price per pound of protein between products requires two numbers — the percent protein of the product and its price per ton. The total pounds of protein per ton are calculated by multiplying the percent protein of the product by the 2,000 pounds in a ton. If alfalfa is 20 percent crude protein (CP), then there are 0.20 x 2,000 = 400 pounds of CP in a ton of alfalfa.

If alfalfa hay is priced at $180 per ton, the cost per pound of protein would be 45 cents (180 ÷ 400). If distillers grain was priced at $200 per ton, then which is most economical? The protein in distillers grains (30% CP) would cost 33 cents per pound making it the best buy. (.30 x 2000= 600 pounds of CP, $200 ÷ 600= .33)

These calculations work well for comparing feedstuffs that are similar in dry matter content. An additional step is required to compare high moisture products such as liquid feeds and tubs. Each producer will need to research these numbers for the products that are available to them.

Wedding No. 2

We’re in countdown mode, to wedding number 2. I’ve warned son number 2, since I wasn’t consulted on the date, I have a busy week before. I won’t be around much for pre-wedding stuff.

Not only will we be hosting the northeast Kansas grazing school that week, we have another exciting event planned. Mark your calendars for Sept. 7.

We’re having a gathering at the Holton Livestock Exchange. We will be looking at several cows and pairs. We’ll be talking about body condition scores and cattle weight. Do you know that the average cow weight has been increasing since 1983? Our national cowherd gained 5.64 pounds a year for seven years. Since 1990 the weight is creeping upward at .64 pounds a year. And we thought it was just a human obesity problem!

The average cow weighs 1,300 pounds, but if you ask your neighbor how much his cows weighs, chances are he will be underestimating. Underestimating cattle weights can mess up your rations and stocking rates on pastures. Body condition scores is a nine point system that evaluates the cattle.

We know that if a cow is a BCS of 4 or less, she probably won’t be bred this fall when you preg check. Dr Chris Reinhardt, KSU beef specialist, will be on hand to discuss body condition scores and how they can guide you in your operation.

Come to the sale barn at 5:30 p.m. and have a hamburger, provided by the Jackson Conservation District and the Jackson County Livestock Association.

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Posted by on Aug 21 2011. Filed under Columns, Fenceline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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