Cow-calf producers looking to add a protein supplement to rations may be choosing corn this year, says the Michigan State University extension, likely because corn prices are falling.
Pregnant cows require a steadily increasing protein intake, topping out near 10.3% crude protein in early lactation, hence the need for supplementation. Many forages, MSU extension says, generally offer enough protein, but crop residues and poor quality hays will not.
That's why distillers grains, a common choice among producers during the past five years or so, is still an option for boosting protein – but corn is gaining more traction.
MSU extension says even though DGs have in the past followed corn prices, 2014 is likely to be very different.
DG prices the week of Dec. 15, 2013, at 19 markets across the Midwest averaged 142% of corn and were nearly 50% of the cost of soybean meal, MSU reports.
"The rule of thumb suggests when DGs reach 62% of soybean meal, the value per unit of protein in each feedstuff is equal. Without attempting to guess future market prices, one would suspect the DG value will remain high as global demand and high domestic soybean prices keep pressure on protein prices," MSU said. "Bottom line; know the values of your feedstuff inventory."
MSU extension also recommends calculating trucking, storage and local availability in selecting a protein supplement.
"At present, corn is the cheapest energy source and DG looks like the cheapest protein source, but like the weather, it will probably change," MSU said.