Protein supplementation may be provided in many forms and price ranges. Managers of beef farms are challenged to find the most economical, yet adequate, protein for their herds.
"One of the rules of thumb when price comparing is the higher the level of protein in a feed, the less the cost is per pound of protein," said Cole.
For example, a 20% protein feed contains 400 lbs. of protein. If it costs $450 per ton divide the cost by the pound of protein ($450/400 = 11.25 cents) to arrive at the cost per pound of protein.
"Determining the cost of a protein feed becomes more difficult when you try to assign a value to the convenience factor. This often results in the farmer paying more than necessary for protein," said Cole.
Some proteins may have other valuable nutrients or additives in them which will enhance its value. An example would be additional fat for energy, an ionophore to improve efficiency or additional minerals like magnesium for winter tetany protection on older beef cows around calving and early lactation.
"Stockpiled fescue can even be considered a source of added protein so long as it remains green and has adequate height to meet the cattle's daily dry matter requirements. A mild winter makes this an even better protein source," said Cole.
Turnips seem to be everywhere this year and protein values are listed in references as 18 percent on the tops and 12 percent on the roots on a dry matter basis. They could serve to reduce supplemental protein needs.
"The surest way to properly supplement the forage you're feeding is to test it and know the needs of the class of animal you're feeding," said Cole.
Source: University of Missouri Extension