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Cattle Feeders Should Stay Flexible, Seek Advice amid COVID-19

Iowa Beef Center issues guidance on dealing with possible disruptions from COVID-19

AMES, Iowa – Disruptions caused by COVID-19 grow each day. Volatility in the cattle market was one of the first disruptions, and now with ethanol plants slowing production or shutting down, local availability of corn co-products may be limited.

Dan Loy, director of the Iowa Beef Center and extension beef specialist at Iowa State University, said making plans now based on current and potential input availability will help producers determine their next steps.

“This situation is very local, continuously changing, and will vary from producer to producer and community to community,” Loy said. “Supply disruptions could potentially affect other inputs such as feed additives, implants and trace nutrients. Hopefully these disruptions will be short-lived.”


Here are three tips to help cattle feeders manage the current challenges for their operation.

In feedlot diets, soybean meal or urea based supplements (dry or liquid) can replace all of the protein from corn co-products.

However, remember that smaller calves, calves with lower feed intake or those on growing diets may not be able to utilize all of the protein from urea. Formulating on the basis of metabolizable protein accounts for this. The high solubility of urea also comes with limits. Consider these limits for the safety of beef cows and backgrounding cattle.

Other potential protein sources that may be available include whole soybean. At 40% protein soybean can be a good protein source for beef cattle. The fat content (20%) limits the amount that can be fed. Also, cereal rye, harvested at the boot stage, can be as high as 20% protein or higher.

When substituting a higher protein supplement for distillers grains, you will likely be substituting corn for distillers as a source of energy, adding more starch to the diet.

Be sure to use an adjustment period and consider adding more fiber to the diet and managing feed bunks more closely.

Lean on your nutritionist and other advisers.

In Iowa, your regional extension beef specialist is a good resource for advice on options available. Find your specialist on the ISU Extension and Outreach website. If adjustments need to be made to implant or supplementation strategies, base your decision on the options available and research-based information.

For more information on changes and updates, visit the Iowa Beef Center’s COVID-19 web page. For more information about IBC, visit http://www.iowabeefcenter.org.

–ISU Extension




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