FEED ALTERNATIVES: What to Do When Everything Changes?

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? What happens when circumstances are out of your control and you need to make drastic changes?

In the last few years, we have dealt with the ultimate perfect storm in South Dakota – drought followed by crazy commodity markets. This leaves us wondering how to balance low forage quantities, high commodity prices, and trying to keep cows producing yet not go bankrupt in the meantime.

It’s scary to try something new or sometimes feel like you are going back in time in feeding management. I won’t pretend to have dreamed up these options on my own; there are excellent resources out there. But even as a nutritionist, it’s easy to fall into a rut and stick with the systems you know. We will quickly examine a few options to help with corn prices, forage replacement, or both.

1. Barley/wheat or other small grains
a. Consume less DM, lower FCM yields
b. Partial versus full replacement of corn
c. Beware of quality variability depending upon growing and harvest conditions

2. Sugar Supplements
a. Molasses or whey-based, milling by-products (liquid)
b. 5-7% of DM (or 2-3lbs)
c. Improves fiber digestion
d. Can be used to increase DM intake and fat-corrected milk yield
e. Used in place of some corn in diet

3. Monensin
a. Increase feed efficiency

4. High fiber- low starch forage replacers/extenders
a. Soy hulls, beet pulp or DDG
b. May not always be cost-effective
c. Partially replace forage, potentially some grain

5. Supplemental Fat
a. Boost energy content in ration
b. Can prevent acidosis because using less grain
c. Use protected sources that bypass the rumen & are low in unsaturated fat (reduces
fiber digestibility)

After covering these options and thinking we have it all figured out, something is likely to change. And while I hope we don’t see extreme conditions again, it’s better to be prepared to think outside the box if the time rolls back around. Sometimes the most challenging part of pivoting when things go squirrelly is knowing what products will work and what won’t. If you have questions, contact us at Sioux Nation Ag Center.