Save $15 per head with custom mix

Keeping costs down and maintaining health of the cow herd is crucial during the winter months. Custom mixing cow minerals and feeding dry distillers grains or other corn byproducts in a winter ration pays big dividends.

“This may be one way to save between $10 and $15 per head,” says Dennis Bauer, University of Nebraska Extension educator at Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties.

There are cost-effective rations that Bauer says are gaining popularity in his part of the state. “Probably the cheapest system is to graze cornstalks or winter grass range and supplement with 2 pounds of DDG [on a dry matter basis] every other day, or 6 pounds DDG twice a week,” Bauer says.

Corn byproducts provide an excellent source of protein, energy and phosphorus, complementing most wintering programs, he says. Because the starch has been removed, there are no negative effects on forage digestibility associated with the byproducts.

This system could work with any of the corn byproducts, including wet or modified wet distillers grains. “There is no expense of haying,” he says.

An accompanying no-phosphorus mineral program should include a mix of copper, zinc and vitamin A, along with salt at a rate of 1 pound per head per week. Bauer suggests allowing only enough mineral for the cows to consume every week. “If they don’t eat it, put DDG with it,” he says, to make it more palatable.

Cattle need about 19 grams of phosphorus per head per day, but phosphorus is one of the most expensive ingredients in mineral programs, Bauer says. Out of 1,000 forage samples from 11 northeast Nebraska counties tested by a group of UNL Extension educators over a three-year period beginning in 2001, alfalfa, oat hay, millet and alfalfa/grass hay tested above the nutritional phosphorus requirements for cattle. “Over 90% met or exceeded the phosphorus requirements,” Bauer says.

Meadow hay was the only forage that tested low on phosphorus about two-thirds of the time. “Even when using soybean meal and corn as part of the ration, in most cases the phosphorus requirements will be met,” Bauer says. “People do custom mineral mixes because of this.”

He recommends testing home-raised or purchased feed samples for a complete mineral content and custom mixing mineral without phosphorus if the forages check out. He says that most feed mills will custom mix minerals in 2- to 4-ton lots for individual producers, or they already offer a less expensive no-phosphorus mineral of their own.

Another inexpensive program is to windrow cane or millet and move fence once every five days, allowing cows to graze windrowed forage. “This might be high enough quality that you wouldn’t need to supplement other than mineral,” Bauer says.

To improve forage utilization, producers could spread corn byproducts on top of windrows with a feeder wagon, encouraging cows to eat even rough forages.

“We don’t want to hurt production,” Bauer says. But custom mixing no-phosphorus mineral for the cow herd and feeding DDG or other corn byproducts in combination with available forages or cornstalks can save money.

For more information, contact Bauer at 402-387-2213.

This article published in the November, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.