In my experience
I have found cattle producers to be some of the hardiest and most resilient folks I have ever come across. With that resiliency, is the ability to adapt and make their operation survive in good times and in bad. Most commonly, producers are having to adapt to the economic climate they are in whether it be high input costs, low cattle prices, or a combination of the two. One way producers are handling these tough times is by seeking out alternative feed options. Often times, the term “alternative cattle feeds” carries a negative connotation. The reason for this, is we immediately associate “alternative” with lower quality or throw away scraps from another industry. In some cases, this is true, however, there are exceptions. In these tough economic times in agriculture, it’s vital that producers explore all opportunities to reduce input costs, and increase animal performance.
With the advances we are making in processing and manufacturing
There are a host of new performance driven products arriving on the market for producers to utilize. Not all these products are cost effective, however, many offer producers a non-commoditized option that can increase animal performance and reduce overall input costs. These products can also assist producers in other areas as well. Many of these products are pelleted and can help reduce shrink. They also typically utilize by-products and other feedstuffs as a base and then improve them from there.
Another form of alternative feeds utilized by cattlemen, are the local/regional available feedstuffs. These do fall under the category of waste/by-products from another industry. That being said, not all of them poor quality. For example, distiller’s grains are a relatively cost effective feedstuff that provides quality protein and energy to a cattle ration. Distillers are fairly easy to acquire throughout most of the Midwest which means they are useable by a large number of cattlemen in the United States. Another regional feedstuff would be citrus pulp which is commonly used in Florida cattle operations. Citrus pulp is a highly digestible fiber source that is available I both dried and wet forms and can even be pelleted. It works great in both beef and dairy rations and is readily available near citrus processing plants.