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rockridgecattle

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I did not want to hijack the post on replacing alfalfa. But i have some questions.
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cleland":kp515z7u said:
i grind my own feed to grow my yealing bulls on. I am currently looking using a mix of corn, alfalfa, soybean meal, and some minerals. On top of this ration I feed free choice grass hay. I came upon a deal this fall with a guy who had some alfalfa hay that had gotten wet but is still not bad at all, a little brown but no mold. I am looking for something to take the place of the alfalfa in my ratoin and feed the alfalfa free choice. In my ration I am not using the alfalfa for protein as I can get morn that I need from the sbm. Any suggestions on what I could use to ad some roughage and bulk fairly cheep? Not wanting to use Cotton seed hulls.
Thanks
Jeff

My questions or observations of a simple person are how is this cheapening feed costs.

If you do the math, it seems more expensive.

First senario:
You make the hay, you haul the hay, you feed the hay in bale rings. Cost associated with haying and hauling and feeding.
If you do not have enough you have three choices based on hay and calf prices
1. buy hay or grain or some sort of supplement
2. buy straw and feed in rings along side the hay or grind and mix with hay...cost associated with running a grinder or just feeding as is in a ring, growing or purchasing straw to feed
3. grow or purchase slough or native hay to stretch the feed
4. sell off enough cows to meet the demand of the hay you have

Second senario:
Make your hay...input costs on making and hauling and feeding
Make or buy corn...input cost to make and harvest the corn, or buy
Make or buy soybean meal...cost to buy?
use a grinder (include depreciation of grinder, repairs of grinder, cost to run grinder, be it tractor or electric (if that is possible) add in the cost to dump it out to the cattle add in the labour. Add in cost for insurance on ginder, interest if you bought it on credit.

At what point is it cheap feed. Once you add in all the other costs, it seems to become more expensive.
I could see using a system like the poster stated if you were going to feed in a feedlot and wanted a higher turn over of animals, fatten faster. But for stock on the farm, that is staying on the farm, you want to meet their needs cause anything else just gets dumped out the back end, or gets burned off on pasture.

Please explain how this is cheap feed.
 

dyates

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I was confused as well, from start to finish. I don't see where it could be economical to grind anything. Free choice grass hay, free choice mineral, a little alfalfa and some whole kernel corn; what more could they need? Let the animals do the grinding.
 

msscamp

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rockridgecattle":1pi7gxpe said:
My questions or observations of a simple person are how is this cheapening feed costs.

By grinding hay, you don't have the waste that is inherent in feeding via a bale ring/hay feeder. You can stretch your hay out by adding a bale of straw for every so many bales of grass and alfalfa, and control exactly how many pounds each animal is getting per feeding, or per day. You can also mix your grain with the hay, and feed a complete ration in a feed bunk - via feedwagon, or tubs.
 

Alberta farmer

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This is just my personal opinion. Works for me.
A cow has basic feed requirements that need to be met if she is going to be productive? There are many different methods to get there?
Now being basically lazy and thrifty i try to get her fed with as little work as possible and as cheaply as possible!
In general I figure it is cheaper to buy hay than grow it. I think a sharp pencil is your best piece of equipment! Pretty hard to justify haying equipment unless you are doing at least 500 acres of hay a year?
Also consider this: When you feed a bale of hay you grew you are returning manure value to your land, less the energy the cow took out? With bought hay you are actually adding nutrients to your soil?
If you feed out in the fields you don't have the cost of spreading the nutrients the next year...a cow is a very efficient manure spreader?
Most hay is right around that 12% protein level? A dry cow certainly doesn't need 12% protein so why not feed about half of her needs with that good hay and half with straw? Grain is pretty hard to justify unless it is incredibly cheap?
In Alberta the winters are long and cold. Most people will be feeding for about 200 days. To be profitable you really do need to be able to feed that cow as cheaply as possible?
Heres how I try to do it: 22 lb. [email protected]$.03/lb. = $.66/day 15 lb. [email protected]$.01/lb= $.15
For a total of $.81/day. Just roll the bales out in a different place everyday.
This year I expect to feed for a total of 140 days. I have banked native pasture that allows cattle to graze late...if it snows earlier the grass is still there in the spring.
I figure my grazing costs at $.79/day so all in all my total feed costs for the year are $291.15/cow/year.
Of course you need a tractor/truck to feed the big bales and that has an added cost. I use a 95 hp Kubota which is very fuel efficient and I keep it in a heated shop so no warm up is necessary. And by the way the shop/house etc. are heated by one of those outdoor wood furnaces and all the wood comes from the farm.
With the poor prices in the cattle business I believe everyone who wants to stay in the cattle business should be looking at doing things as cheaply as possible? Just my opinion.
 

randiliana

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Alberta farmer":21wszkri said:
Heres how I try to do it: 22 lb. [email protected]$.03/lb. = $.66/day 15 lb. [email protected]$.01/lb= $.15
For a total of $.81/day. Just roll the bales out in a different place everyday.
This year I expect to feed for a total of 140 days. I have banked native pasture that allows cattle to graze late...if it snows earlier the grass is still there in the spring.
.

Well, you have some cheap hay there!! Ours is running between $.045 and $.06 per lb. Depends on how far you have to truck it.
 

1982vett

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randiliana":173le55h said:
Alberta farmer":173le55h said:
Heres how I try to do it: 22 lb. [email protected]$.03/lb. = $.66/day 15 lb. [email protected]$.01/lb= $.15
For a total of $.81/day. Just roll the bales out in a different place everyday.
This year I expect to feed for a total of 140 days. I have banked native pasture that allows cattle to graze late...if it snows earlier the grass is still there in the spring.
.

Well, you have some cheap hay there!! Ours is running between $.045 and $.06 per lb. Depends on how far you have to truck it.

I was going to say, $.03/lb for 12% hay, $60 per ton, just barely pays the baling around here. However, I don't have a problem with your technique. When grazing oats I will feed the lesser quality hay. When good grazing is short I will use the better hay or mix feeding good with not so good.
 

kenny thomas

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Sure would hate to feed for 200 days a year or even 140. You must have very good management to make much clear money. I hate to feed over 45 but have not been able to do it the last two years because of drought. Maybe next year. Nothing cheaper than letting them graze it themselves. Many years it does seem it is cheaper to buy than bale and the extra nutrients back on the land is worth a lot.
Hay is 180-200 a ton here, if you can get it.
 

Alberta farmer

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Kenny: It is very difficult to make a profit when you have to feed hay for 140 days. In fact if you don't own the land it is pretty hard to survive! Some guys get their feeding days down by swath grazing(in fact some are approaching zero days of actual feeding), however I figure if you can grow a crop on land you probably can make more money cropping it than have cows eat it? I think the economics of growing a crop to swath graze are a little shaky...I might be wrong as lots seem to do it around here. I also am not all that keen on freezing my butt off moving little electric fences when the wind is howling and it is 40 below! Much nicer sitting in a nice comfy tractor?
In reality the only people raising cattle in my area are old timers who have everything paid for, or boys who work the oil patch and need a tax write off.
Last year I bought round bales of timothy(1150 lb. actual weight) for $25. Rained on once. The guy grows timothy for the export market and once it gets rained on it is no good for that market. It cost $2.75/bale to get it hauled 4 miles. So 27.75/bale or $.024/lb. I took all he had so had some left over. It tested 8.8% protein.
This year I bought 1300 lb. bales for $35 bale. Alfalpha/Timothy mix, no rain, put up in early July. Still awaiting the feed test but suspect close to 12% protein. Works out to $.027/lb. Right across the road from me so will haul it myself, but of course that will have a small cost...especially if I don't pay myself any labor costs!
Luckily I have about four or five neighbors close who grow hay for export or the horsey crowd and they always have some hay that doesn't fit the grade, so I have a cheap source? They seem to like to sell to me because I actually pay them right away and don't try to beat them down in price...I either say yes or no!
My old Dad came back from the war, 21 years old, with half of one foot gone and a bunch of medals. He bought his farm and had a good life despite his disability. Raised six kids and expanded to where he wanted to be. Loved farming right up until he died.
 
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rockridgecattle

rockridgecattle

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I know i posted this thread, and have not been ignoring it, just reading what everyone has to say.

We get our feed tested. Then we balance out a ration based on what those tests say. The tests i have heard are in the mail. A might bit late, but they are on the way. As soon as we get them we take them to the ag office and work out a ration with the MAFRI rep. Testing and getting a ration is the way to keep the cost down. Then you have a ration that is based on what results you want from the cows. Do you want to maintain them, get them to gain or, loose weight.

But as a cow calf operator, it seems the cost of owning a grinder raises the cost of feeding. Add in man hour, depreciation, repairs, tractor cost to run, and maybe that $ could be used else where to cheapen the feed.
I could see it if you were a feedlot operator, where you make your $ in the pounds put on. Put the pounds on faster, higher turnover, more animals move through the lot. But as a cow calf operator, it is just as easy to get free hay testing done, free ration made up and implement it. Manitoba Ag has these free services when you purchase crop insurance. Well the ration balancing is free for any producer, but the feed test is free when you have insurance.

However, i will say that we are renting a bale shredder from a feedlot operator who will not be in business this year. But we are renting due to the threat of an abortion storm due to the moldy hay. A shredder does good job of knocking out the mold. As well we normally put up 500 wild hay bales (our way to cheapen feed) and only got 13. So our "bed and breakfast" hay is non existant this year. Bed and breakfast because they eat what they want and bed in the rest. If we lost one calf due to an abortion because of mold it would pay for the rental.
So due to the lack of wildhay we bought alfalfa straw for bedding. We paid $2.00 a bale and baled it ourselves. This is the other reason for renting the shredder. Alfalfa straw is quite coarse. It could damage the cows mouth if they decide it eat it, or it could injure the bag on the cow. The shredder would also allow a bedding bale to go further.
But as a rule of thumb, ring feeders are our way. Roll out one bale of tame so they all get a good feed, then feed enough for 2 days so they clean up and waste not. And in the rings, they get tame and wild. They usually eat the tame in the first day, clean it up i the second day, and eat the wild on the second day.
We also cost cut not in the feed cost so to speak, but by feeding all the animals on the same day, running the tractor less, and taking a wagon or stack mover out with a load of bales instead of running back and forth from the hay yard to the feeding area. Our cost cutting also includes heavy bush for shelter for the cow. The wind is half the challenge in keeping them warm. If they can get out of the wind, they use less feed. We also used preg testing for the whole herd this year for cost cutting. So there are other ways to cut costs and not "cut" on the nutrition. Personally, I think cost cutting in feed is only half the battle.

Moral of the story:

Get your feed tested, and then have it gone over for a nutrition ration, this in it self is cost cutting. You might be pleasantly surprised.
 

msscamp

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rockridgecattle":2gichyxd said:
A shredder does good job of knocking out the mold.

Grinding hay does the same thing. The fact that you can feed less than optimum hay by grinding it goes quite a ways towards lowering feed costs, and that is above and beyond the dramatic reduction in waste.

So due to the lack of wildhay we bought alfalfa straw for bedding.

This is a new one. What is alfalfa straw? Alfalfa hay minus the leaves?
 
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rockridgecattle

rockridgecattle

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We have several leaf cutter operations out here. They harvest the seed from the alfalfa. We use leaf cutter bees (specific bee for the alfalfa) for tripping the flower to set seed. Any how it gets combined like any other harvested crop, and there is the straw left. No leaves because the alfalfa very old when it is swathed and dried down like say oats, and then combined. It works when in a pinch.
 

Bez+

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One of the other things we do to cut down on feed costs - we put all our hay out in advance now. It has several advantages.

We fed for just over 200 days last year.

We do not bed.

I know we lose some to tramping and such - but we try to never start a tractor in the winter to feed. When fuel and tractor wear and tear is factored in, it pays to not feed on a daily basis.

We never clean pens.

We never haul manure.

We only vaccinate with 8-WAY - no more expensive vaccination programs for us - we never got any additional benefit from feed lot operators - if they do not pass on the money we do not EVER spend it now.

We do not feed any grain unless we get it for free - and we do get free corn fines for the combine operating I do for a neighbour. Managed to get about 12 days home this year and I ran combine every day - wife says we get about 10 - 12 tonnes of dried corn fines this year.

Cows carrying calves do not need heavy protein - they tend p!ss out most of it on to the ground. They only need 7-9% to maintain and 10-11% in the last trimester - hay alone can do this.

We do everything possible to cut costs

The less we spend the more chance we have to make a few bucks

Regards

Bez+
 

Alberta farmer

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Bez: Agree with you on the protein thing. Can't believe people can afford to feed 12% hay and then top it up with grain etc.
I have often wondered about this "bale grazing" thing? How much hay does a cow need with this system? How many pounds over 200 days? I assume you seperate the bales with an electric wire? If so how often do you move fence etc.? How do you power that fence? What about days when the wind is bad?
 

Bez+

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Alberta farmer":3lefpgpc said:
Bez: Agree with you on the protein thing. Can't believe people can afford to feed 12% hay and then top it up with grain etc.
I have often wondered about this "bale grazing" thing? How much hay does a cow need with this system? How many pounds over 200 days? I assume you seperate the bales with an electric wire? If so how often do you move fence etc.? How do you power that fence? What about days when the wind is bad?

This may turn out to be a hijack - apologies in advance.

Bez+
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I went home this past November and put out the bales.

Here is what I did and the plan is not exactly scientific.

I ran every wagon load over a scale on the way to the field - being lucky to have one less than a mile from where we feed and directly on the road from the hay to the feeding fields. It will be gone in the spring when the county moves it. The bales averaged about 850 pounds.

We figure that it costs us about - remember there is wastage and I have never worked out the percentage - 10% waste. We bought in hay this year - 5 footers and we also had a bunch of three year - 5 footers - old hay under tarps and off the ground on old tires. I paid about 20 dollars for each bale that we bought in as they were all two and three year old bales. I always try to buy in older hay - it is a bit better than straw and is always cheaper than first and second cut new hay.

I put them out in groups of 44 bales each. I did not put fencing around them - but I did separate them by distance and also placed some in areas not open to easy view from other areas in the fields.

I also separated some bales by placing them in different fields which are fenced.

When the snow comes up to their bellies they stick right at the feed they have on hand until it is gone - we have to drive them to the next bunch of bales - so I do not worry about them travelling from feed area to feed area. In fact you can leave gates open and they will not leave the feed piles.

I put 22 bales on each wagon and ran it over the scales. The bales averaged just around 850 pounds each. The test on the old stuff we bought showed 9-10% and the hay we had stored ran at about 10.5 - 11% (just found that out by email yesterday)

So for each cow we figure she will eat about 40 - 50 pounds of hay a day - when the weather comes warm the consumption goes down. So rough average is about 9000 pounds per cow when all is said and done. This includes wastage.

We make them go over the waste hay in the spring before we turn them out on pasture - helps clean it up - and a lot of it is still very good - it has just been buried under the snow.

We do not worry about weather - we let them take it head on and they do well - but we worked on this for a lot of years and our animals hair up well and they are Ivomec'd and vaccinated (8 Way) before the weather turns bad - they can take it. All the ground is gently sloped to the south so they tend to get good drainage and they get decent sun for a lot of days. We do have small natural bush shelters near every feed pile - if it get real bad they will walk into them and wait out the storm.

Advantages - no fuel bill for feeding, no straw for bedding costs, no manure to haul, no pens to clean, no fertilizer bills, no machinery maintenance, no parts and repair bills, no costs for animal housing, no pens to build, no wear and tear on equipment plus a few other odds and sods I cannot think of at present. Big bonus - I now only walk out to check on them when I want to - well this year it is my wife - I am having fun in the sun for a year - no fighting to get feed to them - if it is cold I can sit in the house for a couple extra hours.

On top of that, we have fat and sassy cows that are healthy as can be. We have no foot rot problems and we have no issues with muddy pens or feed bunks in the spring. All calves are born on grass or snow depending on the weather when they come. Our average annual death rate for calves is under 3%.

I firmly believe this far outweighs the loss of hay to wastage.

An additional and unexpected benefit - pastures seem to last a bit longer. When we put the cows back in the feed area in the late summer, they seem to actually prefer the old crapped out hay on the ground to the standing grass - they will literally fight to eat it over the new grass - go figure! And it does not seem to hurt them.

We can let them eat snow for water - like millions of cows on the prairies - but we run a water station and mineral station near the house - they come up once a day - every day for this. Why go out to check them when they will come to you? Unless you want to go for a walk that is.

We start them on the piles closest to the house at first - keeps them from walking into fresh hay feeding areas as they go by them to the water and mineral.

We do not buy in grain at all. We do get some dried corn fines for free from a local farmer in exchange for me driving his combine and looking after his big herd of TWO cows! Wife feeds it out by taking the quad out to the field and dumping this corn on the ground by opening small doors on the side of the boxes and driving along - we have two very large aluminum containers - one on the front and one on the back. They hold the equivalent of seven bags of grain - total between the two boxes. When the snow gets too deep she hauls a dog sled with a big slanted aluminum container out with the ski-doo. She opens a hatch on the back of the container and drops a line of corn on the snow - in the ski-doo track - about 6 inches deep and a foot wide. When we run out of corn fines the cows get no more - I refuse to buy grain for cows any more if the hay tests 9-10% or more.

We started this when we were involved with a few more head than 400 animals - mostly lease cows - and costs were high when we fed with equipment. We sold down to 8 head when I left for the middle east. Wife has brought the herd up to a bit more than 40 when I was last home - I figure she wants to get up to about 100 head over the next couple of years - she can handle an opersation this size all on her own - so after 30 years of marriage - rather than object I simply do as I am told and always answer with a "Yes dear".

Cost is EVERYTHING in this business. If there is a cheap way to do things we look at it real hard.

I cannot ever understand how people can let their cows get down on condition - that is their bread and butter out in the field. I cannot ever understand why they buy in grain when they have high quality hay - it is a needless expense unless fattening for slaughter.

It is not always love and roses though - if you miscalculate you have to bring in more feed. If spring comes early you have bought too much hay - however - the cows will always eat it - which in turn makes the pastures last longer - so you realize the benefit anyways.

What we do might not work for anyone else - but it works for us and we are actually able to make a small dollar at it.

There you go

Bez+
 

Nesikep

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one benefit that may not be readily apparent as well, is that younger animals in the herd who don't have much social status will always get to eat their fill as well, and of the same quality hay all the others "upper class" get.. we feed once a day for our 20 head, which is usually 8 bales, 9 when it gets cold, and if you don't pay close attention, there will be the younger ones cleaning up all the garbage because they had to go from pile to pile while the fatsos were chowing down
 

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Sounds like you have a pretty good common sense system. I sure agree we need to do things as cost effective as possible, especially in these tough times.
Around my area the cow herds are rapidly disappearing as more and more people get out of the business. Not very many young people want to raise cows and many farmers are just getting too old.
I have a small seasonal busines that I run in the summer. In reality it is my bread and butter. The tractor I use to feed with more than pays for itself in the summer doing reclamation work. I usually trade it every four years.
 

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