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Balancing feed rations in drier conditions

By: Natasha Wilkie, PAg, Regional Livestock Specialist

June 2017

Drier conditions throughout the spring in some parts of Saskatchewan have meant producers are beginning to worry about having pasture available for the entire grazing season. The worry of supplementing livestock on pasture, combined with a hay crop that will likely provide fewer bales than normal, has producers calling in to discuss feed alternatives.

Deciding what to feed livestock and pricing out various options can be a daunting task for producers. Here at the Ministry of Agriculture we have a couple different tools that can help producers balance rations while also determining what will save them money. Since every situation is unique and producers have access to different types of feed, we advise them to call in to the office once they know feed prices and what types of feeds they have access to. From there, we can run through ration options with them that will meet the needs of their livestock and their bank account.

A few of the resources we utilize can be found online.

  1. Beef Cow Rations and Winter Feeding Guidelines:
    Examples of different winter rations can be found on this webpage. These rations are balanced for 1200lb cows in different stages of gestation and exposed to various temperatures:
  2. CowBytes and SheepBytes:
    CowBytes, developed by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and SheepBytes, developed by Alberta Lamb Producers, are excellent tools that allow us to work with producers to formulate a complete ration for their animals while also comparing costs of the various rations.
  3. Relative Feed Value Calculator:
    The Feed Value Calculator calculates the relative value of crude protein, total digestible nutrients (TDN), calcium and phosphorus, based on the current market price and nutrient content of reference feeds (barley grain, canola meal or wheat distillers dried grains) with solubles (DDGS) or feed peas 1:1 mineral and limestone. A cost factor is then calculated for each nutrient. The cost factors are used to calculate the relative values of other feeds based on their nutrient content.

Please contact your Regional Livestock Specialist for more information or the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377. 

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