Protein Payback: Finding the right fall, winter feed supplements |

Protein Payback: Finding the right fall, winter feed supplements

Ivan G. Rush
for Tri-State Livestock News
Even though cattle prices are at all time highs the importance of feeding economically feasible feeds remains the same.

Most of the intermountain has experienced excellent forage production this year both on the nature range and improved pastures. The excellent year has also provided for an excellent corn crop throughout the U.S. so record corn crop appears to be a possibility which has of course lowered the price of corn. The lower corn price has lowered the price of distillers grains considerably which has impacted the cost of other protein sources. Who knows what the future will hold for commodity prices but we know they are considerably cheaper than the past several years so several producers are considering or have already contracted protein supplements for the fall, winter and early spring.

Then the questions then comes to which is the cheapest source and do you have or want to buy the equipment to store and feed it. Currently wet distillers grains are priced very low plus is readily available, however it does present storage and maybe feeding challenges. If wet distillers could be purchased at $40 a ton delivered to your place that would be equivalent to $90 per ton of dry supplement or that would result in a pound of protein costing 17 cents. This is half to a third of the price it was in the past three or four years.

Protein from alfalfa hay which is often the cheapest source of protein is about twice as expensive as distillers grains at the delivered price. Obviously many other factors need to be considered. In many cases wet distillers is not practical because of distance of an alcohol plant and storage. Some ranchers have looked at some innovative ways to store wet feeds such as big square bales lined with black plastic or in some areas Ag Bags can be used where it is commercially packed on your place. For more information and ideas for storing and utilizing wet distillers grains please see

An alternative wet distillers grains is dried distillers which is currently priced much lower than previous years. In some areas dried distillers is priced close to the price of alfalfa and has approximately 60 percent more protein and energy.

Many alternatives are available and to assist in comparing cost of supplements a cost supplements. One available at the University of NE can be found at the following web site: This spreadsheet allows you to place the supplements you are considering and compare costs of protein and energy.

Some producers utilize fall seeded forages to extend quality grazing. This is usually a second crop of cool season fast growing crops seeding in such fields as wheat stubble or after corn silage has been harvested. Some utilize a mixture or “cocktail mixtures” but usually turnips and radishes and perhaps a legume such as winter peas plus oats. Information from Mary Drewnoski, UNL Beef Systems Specialist indicates these forages should be seeded as soon as possible after silage harvest or currently in wheat stubble. Her calculations show the cost of establishing a good crop would be in the $75-$95 range per acre depending on seed cost and the amount of fertilization utilized. Yields will be in the 1-2 ton per acre of grazeable high quality forage. Turnips for example may have 70-80 percent TDN and 15-20 percent in crude protein. This makes ideal forage for fall calving cows, cows that need to gain, or replacement heifers. The cost of TDN and protein is very low in this kind of forages when grazed.

Even though cattle prices are at all time highs the importance of feeding economically feasible feeds remains the same. F

Ivan G. Rush is Professor Emeritus with the University of Nebraska

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