Because most of the states hit by the 2012 drought were in the corn-producing areas of the country, serious feed shortages will occur for most livestock operations this winter, points out University of Minnesota's Alfredo DiCostanzo.
As a result, beef cattle producers likely will rely on the ability of their cattle to adapt to a variety of diets and ingredients. However, feeding strategies must be reviewed before considering use of drought-stricken crops and forages, DiCostanzo cautions.
He suggests cow-calf producers planning to have sufficient forage and grain inventories for winter in northern climates must consider stocking approximately 1,000 pounds of hay per cow during winter. This is approximately one large round bale per cow.
Given the feed shortages, it is even more important than usual to avoid hay wastage during feeding. DiCostanzo recommends when delivering hay to cows, producers must ensure that only the hay that will be consumed over a 24-hour period is delivered in a feeder.
Data from the University of Minnesota beef research facilities at Grand Rapids and Rosemount indicate that hay wastage is kept to within 5% when cows are fed long hay in a round bale feeder or ground hay in a feed bunk. Greater losses (over 18%) are expected when large bales are simply rolled or shredded onto the ground. Additional hay waste reductions occurred when limiting time access to hay feeder. Limited access by cows to round bale feeders for 14 hours reduced hay waste further.
If hay is not readily available in certain regions, some producers may look into alternatives for securing a forage supply in support of wintering beef cows or growing backgrounding cattle. For cow-calf operations, there is an opportunity to incorporate research-based discoveries when managing feed offerings to wintering beef cows, DiCostanzo suggests.
As examples, he says drought-stricken corn or other forage fields and late-season planting of wheat or triticale provide possible alternatives to short hay supplies. Each option must be considered carefully; the former may lead to increased nitrate or other toxin concentrations in forage, and the latter is dependent on the extent of early drought recovery.
Grazing or feeding winter wheat or triticale hay may lead to nitrate toxicosis, acidosis or grass tetany. Therefore, monitoring nitrate concentrations, providing sufficient calcium and magnesium mineral supplementation, and supplementing cattle with hay or straw may be needed to avoid these potential issues.
For more information on feed supply management, visit

Study examines future feed availability
This summer a study by the American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA) and The Council on Food, Agricultural & Resource Economics was released offering a first-of-its-kind look at the factors that will likely be driving feed cost and availability in the future.
Specifically, the analysis looked at industry profitability, production efficiency and demand as it pertains to U.S. feed grains and livestock and poultry feeding. It also outlined variables and potential effects, addressed questions not answered and covered short-, medium- and long-term horizons along with the key driving factors of future livestock and poultry industries.
According to the report, the three main factors presently impacting feed availability and cost are biofuels, global demand, specific exports and annual crop yields.
Feed costs account for 50-70% of livestock and poultry production.
Robert Wisner, university professor emeritus with the department of economics at Iowa State University, was the principal investigator for the study. He explained that bioenergy likely will continue to be a driving force influencing the future direction of the feed and livestock industries.
On the benefit side, Wisner pointed out that a recent study by the Center for Agricultural & Rural Development at Iowa State University indicates the growth in U.S. ethanol production reduced wholesale gasoline prices by an average of 29 cents/gal. from January 2000 to December 2011. In 2011, increasing ethanol production and higher crude oil prices pushed the price reduction to $1.09/gal., indicating that consumers benefit more from ethanol as gasoline prices rise.
In addition, ethanol policies that contributed to higher corn prices reduced farm program expenditures. Higher corn prices, however, have increased costs to the feed-livestock sector and have contributed to higher food costs.
U.S. corn going into domestic food processing and non-ethanol industrial uses accounts for about 8-10% of the total demand for corn and has increased by only 55 million bu. since 2000-01. Therefore, the largest adjustment to increased use of corn for ethanol and tightening supplies was in domestic livestock feeding, said Wisner.

Factors To Monitor
At least two major uncertainties will need to be monitored by the feed-livestock
sector beyond 2020. The first is China's demand for corn and the second is the possibility of a second-stage growth in corn processing for biofuel.
China appears to be on the verge of becoming a major corn importer, as it is for soybeans. Rapid growth in China's economy, rising consumer incomes and urbanization are bringing rapid shifts in diets from grain to increased consumption of animal products.
It also will be important for the feed and livestock industries to monitor the development of biobutanol. Several U.S. ethanol plants have announced that they are in the initial stages of either converting plants to biobutanol production or adding a biobutanol production unit to the plant. Biobutanol can be produced by a corn fermentation process, with distillers grains as a co-product.
Wisner pointed out that biobutanol may offer opportunities for the biofuels industry to move beyond the blend wall since it does not require engine modifications and can be shipped in petroleum pipelines.
Looking ahead two to three decades, the feed-livestock sector also will face a number of other important issues and potential challenges, including global population and income growth, constraints on global crop acreage, the need to increase grain yields, foreign biofuels mandates, possible large-scale cellulosic ethanol production, environmental concerns and climate change issues.
The full report is available at