Potato coproducts like these fries from a nearby manufacturer have a regular place on the menu for cattle at Beef Northwest in Nyssa, Ore.
With corn prices rising, producers look at alternative feeds
Cattle are the ultimate recyclers. They can take forage and grains and convert it to energy and protein to produce beef for consumers. Beyond the normal feed ingredients, however, cattle are able to use other coproduct feed ingredients to grow and perform, similar to a grain-based diet.
As corn prices continue to climb, many cattle producers and feeders are looking for alternative feed sources to put into rations—even in their own backyards. For instance, a pasta plant in Carrington, N.D., produces shaped macaroni and spaghetti. The rejected pasta from that plant is ground up and used as an energy source in cattle and pig rations. In other areas, proximity to gummy bear manufacturers offers unique coproduct options that cattle can consume and gain well on.
At Beef Northwest Feeders in Oregon, commodity bays that once held corn or silage now contain mountains of french fries, Tater Tots and hash browns. When you have an Ore-Ida plant just down the road, it makes sense to look at potato coproducts to feed cattle. Tons of rejected potato products, much of it still frozen, arrive daily. It is then mixed with corn and other feed ingredients to create a well-balanced and palatable ration that the cattle grow very well on.
Barry Kane, manager of Beef Northwest’s Nyssa, Ore., feedyard, says cattle love the potato products and that feed conversions and carcass quality are good. "The potatoes offer very competitive rates of gain, and we have definitely been satisfied in cattle performance. Having access to the potato coproducts helps keep cost of gain competitive."
Pasta and potato products are just two examples of alternative feed for cattle. Other ingredients vary by region based on the crops grown and food and ethanol manufactured.
North Dakota produces more than 3 million tons of feed coproducts each year, says Vern Anderson, an animal scientist at the Carrington Research Extension Center in the eastern part of the state. The availability and variety make it a very viable option for replacing some if not all of the corn in a ration. "We have studied a number of coproducts in this state, and every one has different nutritional values," he says. "That’s why it’s good to work with a nutritionist to formulate rations."
Know the nutritional value. Alternative feeds can vary widely in nutrient content, making an analysis of the feed value necessary, Anderson says.
- October 2011