The Bottom Line – October 2015

Pelleted Feed For The Modern Producer


In the cattle business, there are a wide variety of feeds used by producers to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. Some  are simply commodities while others are value-added products. One value added type of product is a feed pellet. There are many companies that manufacture feed pellets and each one is unique in its own way.  This article will discuss the opinions, technology and examples of why feed pellets may or may not be a good choice for your operation.


Pellets – Better or Worse?

On the producer’s end, there are many opinions regarding pelleted feed, all of which carry some validity. Many producers associate pelleted feed with lower quality. Unfortunately, looking back over the last 20 years, their opinions were correct because it was not uncommon for manufacturers to hide low quality ingredients inside their pellets. However, in today’s environment, with agricultural technology making great advances, more forward thinking, innovative companies are utilizing the pelleting process to enhance their products as opposed to hiding poor quality ingredients.  In addition, with today’s advances in technology, the pellet has become a higher quality finished product. Some advantages of using a pellet in today’s environment come down to economics. The upfront cost for manufactured products like pellets are often higher but the savings come from lowered operating and labor costs for the producer.


Pellets – The Math

With pelletized feed, you, as a producer, save a significant amount of money from reduced shrink. With commodities and byproducts, shrink is often estimated in a feedyard at 5-12%. When pelleted feed is being used, shrink is estimated at 0-2%, most of the shrink is just a couple pellets here and there that are left in the bunker or stay in the bottom of the feed wagon. When using a dense product like pelleted feed, you will also save on labor costs and machinery depreciation due to the reduced number of trips made with the feed wagon.


Here’s a good example, alfalfa delivered to a feedyard at $120/ton with a 12% shrink, has a real cost of $134.40/ton. Compared to a roughage pellet with a delivered price of $125/ton and 2% shrink, has a real cost of $127.50/ton. When put into those terms, it is easy to see the savings once shrink is factored into the actual cost of buying and using pellets … not to mention the reduced loading, labor and trips to the bunk.


Another real world example of a savings opportunity would be the cow/calf producer. A customer of mine who runs cows in multiple pastures has spent this summer delivering hay to each pasture. During that time, he has worn out a set of tires on his tractor. This problem can be solved with a pelleted roughage source.


What About Nutrition, Safety and Performance?

Hay ring with typical loss / shrink

Aside from economics, there are also some nutritional advantages. First off, a pelletized feed typically has multiple ingredients blended into small pellets. The ingredients that are in pelletized feed are commonly found in a normal ration. Pelleted feed allows a uniform intake as opposed to cattle who pick out the corn and sort through roughage. Loose roughage is usually recognized by producers as having extensive costs in storage and handling because of the high volume, low bulk density, and high shrink. Roughage can now be purchased by producers in a pelletized form that solves these issues. Pelleted roughage can be a great tool to remedy hay loss. As livestock producers, we have all seen hay laying outside a bunk or around a bale ring. Why not completely avoid the mess and shrink? These pellets are often just as effective as hay in a much more convenient package.


Another bonus when purchasing feed that has gone through a manufacturing process, such as pelletizing, is many of the harmful bugs that are found in feedstuffs have been eliminated. This will improve animal health, reduce your sick cattle and help with your closeouts.


The Bottom Line

Pelletized feed has definitely been a subject of many debates in the past. However, with today’s technology, pelleted feed has become a force to be reckoned with. In today’s economic environment, producers owe it to themselves to look into new and different options to improve their input costs and animal performance. Even if they have tried a similar product in the past that didn’t work, it is worth another look. Just like genetics and animal quality has improved drastically, so has the feed we give our cattle.


If you would like to see products like these that can benefit your operation, click below to learn about our PowerFeedPellets™ and ForageEQ™ Pellets.