Fat’s in fashion again

November 9, 2008 06:00 PM
Rick Lundquist

Don't go off your diet yet, I'm talking about tallow and yellow grease – feeding fat.

A few months ago when fuel prices were peaking, fat was being bought up for biodiesel. But now with much lower fuel prices, renderers are dropping fat prices quickly to get back in the feed market. A biodiesel mandate takes affect after the first of the year, which may increase demand for fat. So the current market may be a buying opportunity.

Fat prices were near 50 cents/pound just a few months ago, not much different than commercial bypass fats. Now they are less than half of that. According to Feed Ingredient Weekly*, tallow prices have dropped below the historical relationship to corn. The relative price of tallow to corn in Chicago last week was 302% versus a five year average of 467%.

Adding more fat to your rations in the fall to help regain some of the body condition that may have been lost during the summer can help improve peak milk yields and reproduction. I recommend up to 1 lb. of tallow/cow/day depending on how much and what other sources of fat are in the ration. I don't typically go over 6% total fat in the ration dry matter. Watch the unsaturated fat contribution from distillers grains and other high fat byproducts so you don't cause butterfat depression. Many dairy producers have quit feeding whole cottonseed because of high prices, which leaves room for a more fat from tallow or grease.

To say that this has been a volatile year in the feed and dairy business is an understatement. Now milk prices are dropping as fast as gasoline. Lower corn prices help, but many of the byproduct feeds are lagging behind corn on their way down. At least tallow and grease look like a good buy at the moment.

*Feed Ingredient Weekly, Informa Economics, Inc., Eagan, MN 55122

--Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. You can contact him at siestadog@aol.com.

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