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Alternative Feed Sources

Farm Management Update, June 1996

Frank E. Smith

Corn Stocks Extremely Tight! Corn, Soybeans, Wheat Prices Near Historical Highs!!

With most of the feed grain prices soaring in the past few months and expected prices continuing to rise, what's one to do to keep the number one expense (purchased feed cost) on most farms at a reasonable rate. Most farms, particularly in the mountains of Virginia, have a feed commodity that is sometimes overlooked.


According to retired Forage Specialist Harlan White, pasture provides the least expensive source of feed available to the livestock producer. It does not produce as much feed per acre as more intensively managed crops but pasture also does not require the high input of labor and machinery that harvested crops require. The major feed cost for most livestock producers is winter feed. This cost can be reduced dramatically by extending the grazing season and reducing the amount of stored feed used. Stored feed requires equipment and labor not only in harvesting and storing it but also in feeding it during the winter months.

Experience has shown that one acre of stockpiled tall fescue will carry one cow for about 120 days. In addition to this stockpiled growth, one should plan to have 1.5-2.0 large, round bales (depending on the size of bale) available for each cow when there is a deep snow cover and when the tall fescue is grazed down. Much of this hay can be harvested from the tall fescue.

In the latest Crop Enterprise Budgets produced by VCE's farm management staff, stockpiled fescue can be produced for an annual cost of $70 per acre. Yields for stockpiled fescue are as follows where Animal Unit Month (AUM) = what 1000 pounds liveweight utilizes in one month or 400 pounds of TDN:

4/15 - 6/15 AUM 0.6 0.6 2.4
6/16 - 8/15 AUM 0.6 0.6 0.3
12/1 - 3/15 AUM 4.5 4.5 2.5
HAY (TONS) 2.5 2.5 0.0

Based upon those yields and the cost of hay at $60/ton (50%TDN), the following per acre returns have been calculated.

YIELD PER ACRE (Base price - Hay $60/ton, 50%/TDN)
(AUM+HAY) $16 20 24 32 40
4.0 $64 80 96 128 160
6.0 $96 120 144 192 240
8.0 $128 160 192 256 320
10.0 $160 200 240 320 400
12.0 $192 240 288 384 480

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