Cattle being fed
15 March 2021

Find Ways to Optimize Cattle Feed Costs

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Posted by Nathan Pyatt, PhD  | 15-MAR-2021

Cattle producers have seen fairly stable ration prices for the past five years or so, but that’s changing in some areas. Increased demand for grain coupled with lower-than-expected yield in 2020 has increased corn prices dramatically. That means every operation should be scrutinizing its feed plan to find ways to optimize costs. Here are some tips that can help.

Consider Your Options

The increase in grain prices has added $20 to $50 per dry ton of feed* to many ration prices. That may be an increase of 10% to 25%, depending on the operation. Multiplied across all the days that cattle are on feed, it’s easy to see that those are some pretty dramatic increases in feed costs. So if you’re a cattle producer, what can you do to maintain profitability when margins are tight? It starts with considering all your options.

Cattle Type and Marketing Endpoint

One option cattle producers have to reduce feed costs is to shorten days on feed and/or finish cattle at lighter weights and leaner compositional end points. One risk with that strategy is that packers may not accept leaner cattle and there’s no way to guarantee a favorable profit outcome.

Feed Decisions

Another option is to make feed changes, such as evaluating best cost diets to optimize performance versus least cost diets to meet requirements as inexpensively as possible, and optimizing feed additive technologies. Increasing Rumensin® dose can help improve incremental feed efficiency.1 Rumensin is proven to maintain gain while reducing the feed investment without affecting long-term endpoint.

Management Influence

Cattle producers could also consider implementing technologies that improve daily gain, including evaluating implant dose and timing and adding a beta-agonist like Optaflexx® during the late feeding period to help maintain efficiency as long as possible while cattle are slowing down biologically.2

Focus on Feed Efficiency

As ration prices increase, feed efficiency is worth more. For example, if feed costs are at $200 per ton, a one-tenth improvement in feed conversion might be worth $7 per head.** As ration prices climb to $250 per ton, that efficiency improvement could be worth an additional $1.75 per head** in terms of incremental opportunity because of the increase in feed price. The class of cattle and the length of stay at the feedyard will determine how many days that feed savings multiplies. Feed efficiency value (and feed savings) is magnified in lighter weight cattle that have spent longer days on feed.**

Rumensin is a product that doesn't require major diet or management changes. Increasing the Rumensin dose promotes incremental improvements in feed efficiency. The rule of thumb based on research is that every 100 mg increase in Rumensin results in about a 1% improvement in feed efficiency.3

With today’s higher ration prices, that incremental opportunity is worth more. Rumensin can help bring more net return in scenarios where feed prices are high, and those feed savings are a direct benefit of the Rumensin dose.

Seek Expert Recommendations

During times like these, your nutritionist is an invaluable resource who can help come up with practical ways to optimize feed costs. Be sure to have an open dialogue so that you can carefully weigh the options available to decide what might be feasible in order to maintain gain, efficiency and profitability.

While a number of large-scale alternatives can be considered in terms of endpoint management, some things can be fine-tuned to make big improvements in feed efficiency and cost of gain. Contact your Elanco representative to learn more about how Rumensin can help improve feed efficiency.

For all products: The label contains complete use information, including cautions and warnings. Always read, understand and follow the label and use directions.

Rumensin®

CAUTION: Consumption by unapproved species or feeding undiluted may be toxic or fatal. Do not feed to veal calves.

Cattle fed in confinement for slaughter

For improved feed efficiency: Feed 5 to 40 g/ton of monensin (90% DM basis) continuously in a complete feed to provide 50 to 480 mg/hd/d.

For the prevention and control of coccidiosis due to Eimeria bovis and Eimeria zuernii: Feed 10 to 40 g/ton of monensin (90% DM basis) continuously to provide 0.14 to 0.42 mg/lb of body weight/d, depending upon severity of challenge, up to a maximum of 480 mg/hd/d.

Growing cattle on pasture or in drylot (stockers, feeders, and dairy and beef replacement heifers)

For increased rate of weight gain: Feed 50 to 200 mg/hd/d of monensin in at least 1.0 lb of Type C medicated feed. Or, after the 5th day, feed 400 mg/hd/d every other day in 2.0 lbs of Type C medicated feed. The Type C medicated feed must contain 15 to 400 g/ton of monensin (90% DM basis). Do not self feed.

For the prevention and control of coccidiosis due to Eimeria bovis and Eimeria zuernii: Feed at a rate to provide 0.14 to 0.42 mg/lb of body weight/d, depending upon severity of challenge, up to a maximum of 200 mg/hd/d. The Type C medicated feed must contain 15 to 400 g/ton of monensin (90% DM basis).

Free-choice supplements: Approved supplements must provide not less than 50 nor more than 200 mg/hd/d of monensin.

Mature reproducing beef cows

For improved feed efficiency when receiving supplemental feed: Feed continuously at a rate of 50 to 200 mg/hd/d. Cows on pasture or in drylot must receive a minimum of 1.0 lb of Type C medicated feed/hd/d. Do not self-feed.

For the prevention and control of coccidiosis due to Eimeria bovis and Eimeria zuernii: Feed at a rate of 0.14 to 0.42 mg/lb of body weight/d, depending upon severity of challenge, up to a maximum of 200 mg/hd/d.


Optaflexx®

CAUTION: Not for animals intended for breeding.

Complete feed 

For increased rate of weight gain and improved feed efficiency in cattle fed in confinement for slaughter: Feed 8.2 to 24.6 g/ton of ractopamine hydrochloride (90% DM basis) continuously in a complete feed to provide 70 to 430 mg/hd/d for the last 28 to 42 days on feed. 

For increased rate of weight gain, improved feed efficiency and increased carcass leanness in cattle fed in confinement for slaughter: Feed 9.8 to 24.6 g/ton of ractopamine hydrochloride (90% DM basis) continuously in a complete feed to provide 90 to 430 mg/hd/d for the last 28 to 42 days on feed. 

Top dress  

For increased rate of weight gain and improved feed efficiency in cattle fed in confinement for slaughter: Feed 70 to 400 mg/hd/d of ractopamine hydrochloride (90% DM basis) continuously in a minimum of 1.0 lb/hd/d top dress Type C medicated feed (maximum 800 g/ton ractopamine hydrochloride) during the last 28 to 42 days on feed. 

1Elanco Animal Health. Data on file.

2Pyatt NA, Vogel GJ, et al. Effects of ractopamine hydrochloride on performance and carcass characteristics in finishing steers: 32-trial summary. J. Anim. Sci. 2013;91(E-suppl. 1):79.

3Duffield TF, Merrill JK, Bagg RN. Meta-analysis of the effects of monensin in beef cattle on feed efficiency, body weight gain, and dry matter intake. J Anim Sci. 2012;90(12):4583-92.

*Assumes 75% DM dietary inclusion of corn grain at $3.50/bu vs. $4.50 or $5.50/bu adds $26-$52/t DM, respectively.

**Assumes saving 70 lbs of feed on 700 lbs of weight gain at F:G 6.5 vs. 6.4.

Optaflexx, Rumensin and Elanco and the diagonal bar logo are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates.

© 2021 Elanco.

PM-US-21-0787

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Elanco and the diagonal bar logo are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates. © 2021 Elanco.