Commodity prices are nearing record highs, which is reason for celebration for many farmers. But soaring commodity prices and extreme drought in the western United States are causing many Illinois ranchers to think outside the box when it comes to animal feed.

Travis Meteer, a beef extension instructor at the University of Illinois, has worked with growers across the state to help control feed prices.

“What you can do to get cows to harvest their own feed is always the most cost-effective option,” says Meteer. It requires less fuel, labor and machinery and as an added bonus, it applies its own fertilizer. ”

The best option is to practice some solutions. And he adds that there are benefits to feeding cattle in Illinois.

“Most people don’t think of Illinois as cow country,” he says Meteer. “We don’t have a lot of pasture land, but there are many ways to do it. There are abundant by-product feeds that can be attached.

Derek Dean, of his Dean Bacon and Beef in Leroy, Illinois, has developed a unique strategy to combat rising feed costs. “The price of corn is skyrocketing, so we are constantly changing our rations in an attempt to make our meals cheaper without sacrificing our win rate,” says Dean. “We’re feeding more dry static grains, more corn gluten, more corn syrup, some wet rye bales, and more cover crops.”

Dean has ties to Bayer and buys shucklage, a by-product of a seed-corn processing plant in Farmer City, Illinois. Shucklage is a combination of corn kernels and shuck that, when wrapped, ferments like silage. The dean recommends supplying and selling products to local farmers and communicating with other farmers and feed brokers to ensure access to alternative feeds.

“The cheapest option you have is grass fodder, so you need to find a way to expand your pasture,” Meteer says.

Adding a cover crop to the crop rotation can also extend the grazing season.

“If you add wheat to your crop rotation, everyone can plant oats and beets before they harvest corn or soybeans,” he says. “You can still graze at this time of year when other people are putting out hay.”

“One of our first harvests is the juicy corn harvest in August, which allows us to grow cover crops while the growing season is still long enough,” says Dean. explains Mr. “We grow corn stalks and cover crops in pairs during the winter to reduce winter feed costs. We grow mainly rye, but we also graze barley, wheat and triticale. ”

Meteer and Dean agree that understanding nutrition is important. Dean works with nutritionists to better understand how cows eat and use feed most efficiently.

“It’s important to test feed and hay to come up with a balanced, most cost-effective ration,” says Meteer. A well-balanced, most cost-effective ration allows us to use these nutrients more efficiently and save money.

And if food is really scarce, lowering stocking density is an option for fewer mouths to feed. “By weaning the calves and selling them as drinkers, stocking densities can be quickly reduced,” says Meteer. “You don’t feed cows and calves like that – and calf prices are pretty decent right now.”

With constant uncertainty, it is more important than ever to develop a risk management plan to protect profits from rising feed costs and volatile livestock prices.

“When you add up the simple things, especially the equipment, fuel and everything else can be very expensive,” he says Meteer. “There is no silver bullet, that’s for sure.”

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