Nutritionist offers tips to evaluate co-products

2012-12-26T14:33:00Z Nutritionist offers tips to evaluate co-productsBy ANDREA JOHNSON Assistant Editor Minnesota Farm Guide
December 26, 2012 2:33 pm  • 

MORRIS, Minn. – Chad Zehnder, a nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition LLC, says a shift is occurring for Minnesota farmers who feed cattle.

They’ve purchased less expensive feedstuffs – sometimes called byproducts – to supplement the cattle feed ration.

Given the increase in price of alternative feedstuffs, like distillers grains, Zehnder suggests that farmers consider thinking of alternative feedstuffs as co-products rather than byproducts.

It’s a subtle change in wording, but a byproduct refers to a secondary or incidental product of a manufacturing process.

A co-product is a product produced along with another product.

When the price of distillers grains began trading relative to the price of corn, it was no longer a byproduct, but a co-product of ethanol production, he said.

“Distillers grains is no longer a byproduct, it is a commodity,” said Zehnder speaking at the University of Minnesota Cattle Feeder Days. “We’re almost starting a whole new revolution and learning again how to feed the products that are available.

“There is a time and a point where distillers grains price themselves out of the ration. That’s when I think we need to ask ourselves – are we stuck in a ration rut?

“You may be feeding 30 percent distillers grains, X amount of high moisture corn and just keep plugging along. We have to step back and ask if that’s the right thing.”

This past summer, Zehnder had some customers who moved away from feeding distillers grains and feeding formulator or balancer-type supplements. Some customers moved back to using their homegrown feedstuffs and using a protein-based supplement, because it made sense to their bottom line.

Zehnder also received calls from customers who learned of an opportunity to feed something that was unusual and cheap this past summer.

“If something is cheap and sounds too good to be true, it is likely too good to be true,” he said. “There is probably little value there.”

He encourages producers to think about the following items when evaluating new co-products.

– Availability. “What’s the availability? Is it one load, two loads, three loads? Are we going to have it in the ration for two weeks and then you’re going to pull it back out?

– Class or type of cattle. “Are we going to throw cattle off feed or hurt their performance?”

– Consistency of the product. “We have a tough enough time today with our diets and consistency. How wet is the ration? We’re starting to pull some oil out of the distillers grains, and it’s starting to change our distillers products. You need to ask this question with your nutritionist, and if you haven’t taken a distillers sample lately, you probably need to or call the plant to get a plant average.”

– Freight and moisture content. “I’ve seen a lot of folks haul a lot of water for a long ways. Make sure you’re looking at your opportunity on a dry matter basis, and not just trucking water.”

– Storage and shrink. “You have a pile of feed that has a high value, but are you losing 5-20 percent of everything you put up? We need to do a better job – as our rations costs are hovering around that $250-$260 a ton – it certainly is a different game then when it was $160-$180 a ton.”

– Current facilities, bunk management and ration mix capabilities. “In the Upper Midwest we get ‘planting disease’ and ‘combining disease,” so is feeding cattle the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning? What is your capability for managing the bunk?”

– Sulfur content. “When you think about distillers and the process, anytime you remove oil, you change the composition of distillers. Sulfur is still something we need to look at, although as an industry we’ve gotten better at managing that.”

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