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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Cheap Meal Prices Can Cause Bad Decisions

Dairy Pipeline: November 1998

Charles C. Stallings
Extension Dairy Scientist, Nutrition
Virginia Tech
(540) 231-4758

Don't let cheap corn and soybean meal prices cause bad decisions. It is tempting to think that other feeds are overpriced because of relatively cheap corn and soybean meal prices. A good example is whole cottonseeds. Most reports indicate cottonseeds are being priced at greater than $150 per ton in Virginia. When corn is $3 per bushel and soybean meal is $200 the relative feed value based on protein, energy, calcium, and phosphorus content is $156.91 per ton. In other words the nutrients in whole cottonseeds are worth this much relative to energy from corn, protein from soybean meal, calcium from limestone ($25 per ton), and phosphorus from dicalcium phosphate ($200 per ton). When the price of corn falls to $2 per bushel and soybean meal to $150 per ton the relative value of cottonseeds is reduced to $110.24. Does that mean cottonseeds should be removed from the ration when prices increase? Not necessarily. One of the unique things about whole cottonseeds is they have a combination of energy, protein, and fiber. Energy is greater than corn because of the oil content and protein is 21%. The high fiber content (30 to 40% ADF) along with low starch makes cottonseeds unique because we can supply energy that is not starch and supply fiber at the same time. If we had to supply all the energy from grains we would get to the point we could not add any more to the ration without overfeeding starch, resulting in acid rumens and sore footed cows. There are some alternatives for supplying fat such as whole soybeans, tallow, and commercial rumen protected fat sources. Rations should be balanced with these feeds in order to compare to cottonseeds and decisions based on economics and expected cow performance. If you have been successful in using cottonseeds in the past think twice about removing them from the ration. Feeding a lower rate and providing only to higher producing cows might be an option.

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