SDSU feed value calculator figures protein, energy options |

SDSU feed value calculator figures protein, energy options

BROOKINGS, S.D. – SDSU Extension developed a feed value calculator to help South Dakota livestock producers compare costs of protein and energy supplement options.

“Feed costs exceed 50 percent of the annual beef cattle production costs, and with the current market situation, the pressure to determine the most cost-effective feedstuffs has become even more important,” said Adele Harty, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.

The feed value calculator can be found at

Easy to use, the calculator is in a spreadsheet format, which allows producers to select supplemental feeds and compare them to baseline feeds. The spreadsheet compares feed costs-per-ton based on their nutrient concentration. It then calculates how much to pay for each feed when compared to corn or soybean meal. For an accurate comparison, delivery and storage costs for each feed in dollars-per-ton should be included in the calculation.

“Feed costs exceed 50 percent of the annual beef cattle production costs, and with the current market situation, the pressure to determine the most cost-effective feedstuffs has become even more important.” Adele Harty, SDSU Extension cow/calf field specialist

The benchmark for energy supplements in this spreadsheet is corn, whereas for protein supplements is soybean meal (44 percent Crude Protein; CP).

“To generate the most accurate results producers should have feeds analyzed and include in the spreadsheet the actual laboratory results,” Harty said. “With byproduct feeds, analysis can vary significantly from batch to batch. These differences may alter the ration, which affects cattle performance and ration cost.”

Additional Considerations

When utilizing the feed value calculator, Harty encourages livestock producers to also consider the answers to the following questions:

* Do you currently have the equipment to handle this product?

* Are there any special considerations with storage? With condensed distiller’s solubles for example, is a buried tank or a heated room available to store this product?

* How far will the product have to be hauled and how much will this add to the cost?

The higher the moisture in the product, the more water is being transported which may decrease the economic value of some high moisture feeds.

“For high moisture feeds or those with a moisture content greater than 70 percent, to be priced competitively, the farm needs to be located within an approximate 50-mile radius of the plant,” Harty said. “No matter what feeds are used, always evaluate freight costs.”

For example, Harty explained that dry distillers grains (DDGS) could be available at the local elevator for $175 per ton, whereas wet distillers grains (WDG) sells for $44 per ton at the ethanol plant 100 miles away.

“Inputting the $175 and $44 values into the spreadsheet, WDG appears to be more cost effective. However, if the WDG is 100 miles away, the freight charge could change the economics,” she said. “If the freight is $4.25 per loaded mile on a 26-ton load of WDG, freight will add approximately $16.35 per ton. This makes the cost of WDG $682 per ton of protein versus $632 per ton of protein for the DDGS.”

Harty explained that the feed value calculator is a starting point for determining the least-cost feedstuff, however, producers need to make the decision to change the feeds used in their rations or not, based on careful analysis.

“Producers need to consider the storage and delivery costs and currently owned equipment,” she said. “While an alternative feed may fulfill your least-cost ration needs, the additional costs of storage, hauling or equipment changes may deem traditional rations as the ‘best’ for the operation.”

For additional information or questions, contact, Harty at 605-394-1722 or; Heather Gessner, SDSU Extension Livestock Business Management Field Specialist at 605-782-3290 or ; Taylor Grussing, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist at 605-995-7378 or or another SDSU Extension cow/calf field or state specialist. A complete field staff listing can be found at

–SDSU Extension

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