Taking advantage of lower-cost byproduct feeds or even using your own grain makes an appealing option for feeding cattle. The challenge lies in getting that feed formulated and mixed correctly for the type of cattle you feed.
Cattle gain more efficiently when fed a consistent ration, which is difficult to achieve if you layer or hand-mix feed ingredients and then simply drop the mix into a feed wagon that doesn't mix up the ration. That's why it may be time for you to consider a feed mixer if you're feeding calves or younger cattle this year.
Ration quality control is an important component of feeding cattle, says John Wagner, Colorado State University animal scientist and general manager of Southeastern Colorado Research Center. "Providing cattle with properly formulated and mixed diets is critical in maintaining uniform levels of feed intake and optimal performance."
He points to research conducted several years ago in South Dakota that found heifers consuming a completely mixed diet gained weight 10% more rapidly and converted feed 10% more efficiently than heifers consuming a diet where the ingredients were layered in the feed bunk.
Put pencil to paper. A truck- or trailer-mounted feed mixer may seem like a luxury, but research shows that the right feed mixer can make economic sense.
Nearly 20 years ago, Wagner, while at South Dakota State University, did an economic analysis of mixing equipment use. In short, he found that it would take a minimum of 114 head on feed for 133 days each year to pay the annual cost of the feed mixer. That was based on a list price of $12,779 for a mixer wagon equipped with electronic scale and other options. Annual ownership and repair costs equaled $2,356.
Jeff Pastoor, senior cattle consultant with Land O'Lakes, put today's pricing to Wagner's research. In that 133-day trial, at current market prices, you would need to feed 104 head each year to make the purchase of an auger mixer feeder wagon economical. That was based on a good used Kuhn Knight auger mixer priced at $16,500 with $3,000 per year allocated for depreciation, insurance and repairs.
Pastoor says even pricing a newer Kuhn Knight auger mixer sized for the farmer-feeder would be $25,000. Annual ownership is about $4,000, and you would need 135 head on feed for 133 days to pay for it.
- December 2008