Record corn and soybean meal prices have many hog producers looking at alternative feed sources, but improving the efficiency of current feeds is where producers could cut costs.
Alternative feed sources require more storage and additional handling, said Marcia Shannon, University of Missouri Extension state swine specialist and associate professor in animal sciences. Alternatives also may be less efficient because of differences in nutrition quality.
"Any of the alternatives, whether it is peanut meal, rice, cereal grains or other byproducts, are going to be much higher in fiber and lower in energy. So the diet might be cheaper, but you are going to have to feed more of it," Shannon said. "What I want producers to look at is more fine-tuning of their feeding."
Another important factor is marketing weight.
Marketing at lower weights is a huge advantage in reducing costs and losses per head, and packers are helping by reducing the low-weight dock. "With $7.50 corn it might cost you an extra $5.75 to feed that hog another 10 pounds, and with a $78 market price, you're only going to get $2 back," she said. "So you are going to lose $3 a head just by taking that pig an extra 10 pounds. If you add 50 pounds, you're going to multiply that fourfold."
Another practice to improve feed efficiency is using synthetic amino acids. Traditionally, pork producers fed 3 pounds per ton of synthetic lysine across all phases of production, she said. Today, however, high inclusion rates of synthetic amino acids may be more economical.
"Research has shown that we can feed 4 to 6 pounds of synthetic lysine per ton, although at those levels, you need to add some synthetic threonine and synthetic methionine," Shannon said. "Those two are relatively cheap in cost now, so when you are getting up there at 200 pounds, you definitely need to be feeding 4 to 4 1/2 pounds of synthetic lysine."
With high costs of feed for wintering cows, herd owners should consider adding monensin to grain supplements for winter forages.
The additive, trade name Rumensin, controls coccidiosis, a disease caused by intestinal parasites.
The additive improves beef-cow feed efficiency 10 to 15 percent, said Justin Sexten, University of Missouri Extension beef nutritionist.
"That's like feeding hay for 90 cows to 100 cows," Sexten said. "It improves digestion of poor hay. Adding Rumensin to grain fed to cows on winter hay makes economic sense."
Recommended rate for beef cows is 200 milligrams per head per day, mixed into one pound of grain. Monensin must be fed every day, according to the label.
"For an easy way to use the supplement, ask your feed dealer to mix it with a grain ration," Sexten said. "It gives a low-cost gain in feed efficiency. A daily dose costs about 1.8 cents. After adding mixing cost, the treatment costs about 2.5 cents a day."
But Sexten said grain with monensin should not be fed to horses, which do not have a rumen. It can be fatal to equines.
-- Compiled by Herald-Whig Staff Writer Deborah Gertz Husar