Higher feed prices pose problems for producers

North Dakota State University Extension
Farm Forum

With corn prices increasing more than $1 per bushel since last summer, cattle producers are seeking feed alternatives.

While many feed alternatives are available, producers need to consider multiple factors, according to North Dakota State University Extension specialists. Dry matter, protein and energy contents, as well as freight costs, are among them.

“Corn sets the price of energy for alternative feeds,” says Karl Hoppe, Extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center. “As corn prices increase, this drives up the price of other feeds.”

Soybean prices also have risen rapidly since last summer.

“When the soybean meal price increases, then the price of competing protein feeds increases correspondingly,” Hoppe says.

Other North Dakota-produced protein feeds include canola meal, sunflower meal and linseed meal.

Distillers grains are unique in that the price of this byproduct of ethanol production is usually priced relative to the corn market. However, with high corn prices and low gasoline prices, distillers grains prices have increased in line with protein markets.

Pulse crops — field peas, chickpeas and lentils — are high in protein (22% to 27%) and contain energy content similar to other feed grains. These legume seeds can be used as a replacement for other protein and energy feeds in cattle rations. Cooler weather in North Dakota is favorable for pulse crop production.

Field peas previously were priced for human food markets. Presently, field pea prices are competitive as cattle feed because corn and soybean prices have risen substantially.

Other options are limited with high-priced feeds.

“If feed prices remain high and slaughter cattle prices don’t increase,

Distillers grains are mixed with corn silage in a feed bunk.