Winter feed, Suppliers work to meet producer needs
As winter weather makes its first appearance across the state, producers are filling cake bins, stockpiling hay and taking delivery on other forms of supplementation. Feed suppliers are busy taking orders and delivering feed before winter sets in.
“Normally people here feed quite a bit of cake. There is more hay around this year too, so they’ll supplement with that, too,” notes Thar Feed Store owner Gary Thar, who owns feed stores in Gillette and Newcastle and services a large portion of the northeast corner of the state.
“There’s a lot of leftover grass this year, too, and usually in that situation we feed even more cake. Prices are cheaper than last year, but still pretty expensive. Right now 20 percent cake in bulk is around $250 a ton. Earlier, with a contract, it was closer to $220 or $225 a ton,” adds Thar.
“Cattle numbers are building back a little here after several years of drought and people selling off. Last year seemed pretty good until the grasshoppers got done, and we sold a lot more supplemental cakes than normal because the grass was so short. This year was better, but we haven’t had any winter yet, so who knows what will happen,” comments Thar.
Tim Schlager is owner and president of Noland Feed of Casper. He markets feed in a large area north, south and west of Casper.
“In bulk we sell tubs, EZ lick blocks, Smart lick tubs and cake. Right now 20 percent cake, delivered to Casper, is $227.33 a ton. If it goes elsewhere in the state additional freight is usually added. Tubs are at $59.35 apiece for a 200-pound tub, when they’re ordered by the semi-load,” explains Schlager of prices.
“We have lots of grass this year, but there’s not much in it. Samples from last August and September were running from six to 10 percent protein, and this year I had samples around 4.6 percent protein, and the highest was at eight percent,” says Schlager.
“To utilize the old grass, I feel the tubs and blocks work a little better than cake. With cake you feed every day or every other day. You have to look at your cost of labor and fuel, and after adding that up you’re looking at another five to six cents a day to feed it. Blocks are easy to handle and you can usually put enough out to last a week. From an economics standpoint it’s about trying to get the best nutrition you can to the animals at the cheapest price,” comments Schlager.
He adds that the compressed EZ lick blocks cost about 29 cents a day to feed, on average, and a comparable poured block costs about 17 cents a day. Cake comes in at about 12 cents a day when feeding one pound per animal.
“EZ blocks are compressed, while our molasses based products are poured blocks. With pressed blocks it’s harder to control consumption, as they don’t retain their hardness in damp weather conditions.
“They also contain the ethanol by-product dried distillers grains (DDGs). A lot of feeds containing ethanol by-products have high levels of sulfur, which ties up copper and zinc. Those are two of the main components of the immune response system in livestock and we’ve had to do a lot of work to try to get something that was lower in sulfur content by adding other grains and cutting back consumption.
“They are continuing to take feed from the animal side and making other products with it. As an industry we have to figure out how to utilize these by-products. There is talk about another 30 percent increase in ethanol production, which will take another 30 percent of corn from the feeding side. If we don’t utilize some by-product from that process in our industry, we won’t be able to afford feed. The EZ lick blocks are one product that utilize by-products and are relatively easy to handle and feed to livestock,” explains Schlager.
Greg Kunz is manager of Walton Feed of Montpelier, Idaho, and supplies bulk feed to Rock Springs, Pinedale, Mountain View, Lyman and occasionally into the Jackson and Lander areas.
“We sell rolled grains of all sorts, cake and feed blocks in Wyoming. We also have a lot of 4-H clientele, and are starting to deliver that to kids this time of year,” comments Kunz.
“Our 20 percent cake, delivered, is at $295 a ton and it will keep going up. There’s talk of a barley shortage this year, which has kept it climbing all fall. Feed blocks delivered to Wyoming are at $330 a ton and rolled feeds are around $290 a ton,” says Kunz of current prices.
He adds that Walton Feed also sells and delivers a lot of mineral in Wyoming, and can prepare a custom mineral package for producers.
“Anyone who would like their hay analyzed can work through us. I have a guy that will come out and test hay and make a custom mineral package conformed to their needs,” explains Kunz. “In the past few years people have seen the need for a good mineral program. They’ve found they have less scours and healthier cattle when they utilize a mineral program. Our mineral ranges from $800 to $1,200 a ton, depending on the customer’s specific needs.”
Thar and Schlager echo Kunz’s comments on an important mineral package, and also offer mineral in a variety of forms to their customers.
“We’ve seen more early feeding this year than in years past just because of the way the spring was, then we didn’t get any moisture. Our hay situation here isn’t very good after grasshoppers hit us. Hay is out there, but you need to know what you’re buying,” says Schlager.
“We have a lot of grass, but it’s awful dry. With no irrigation around here hay is a pretty valuable commodity. It’s normally cake and some Crystalix tubs, but we’ll see what the winter brings and if it covers the grass up,” adds Thar.
“Costs are higher because the drought has taken a good pull on everything. Hay was short this year due to the cold spring. A lot of people are buying feed for a cold winter here,” says Kunz.