Reacting to High Grain Prices

When grains are at record prices, that also means that manufactured feed products for livestock carry high prices as well. What’s a small stock farmer or rancher to do when the price of feed seems almost like some kind of sad joke?

If money matters on your tiny ranch (like it does for a lot of us) then you have to react in some way. Here are ways to approach feed price spikes.

Feed Less
In some cases, such as when you are grazing animals, that might not hurt. In other cases it may be better to sell animals rather than cut back on feed. The sooner you sell the better in most cases. It’s sort of like a drought. If animals are going to have to go, the sooner they go the better for them and you.

Access Different Land
For animals that can mostly graze, getting access to different property on a rental basis might help. For example, there are all sorts of places that are overgrown and going to bushes that will make great pasture. Find those spots and see if you can work out an arrangement. Even think of these really rough spots here and there that are hard to mow and hard for cattle to do much with… With the right fencing and a guard dog, these spots of several acres would make great pasture for goats. Opportunities are out there.

Use Different Feed
Find different sources of feed. In some cases buying grains direct from farmers is a way to save. Bulk grains are almost always cheaper than sacked feed. If you have storage for the grains you can save some money. On the other hand, the cheaper grades of complete, pelleted feeds are often cheaper than whole grains. That’s so because the manufactured feeds use all sorts of ingredients that are in effect waste products of another process.

It is possible, at times, however, to substitute feeds and save some money.

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Watch Where You Buy
Recently we’ve noted that an independent feed dealer, a small business, is a great resource, sometimes selling whole oats at nearly 20 percent less than the local farmer coop is. That makes it even more likely that we will buy from the little feed store and avoid the coop when possible. Shop around.

Dispose Of Certain Classes of Livestock
In general, most classes of poultry are big consumers of feed that has to be grown or bought. On the other hand, many breeds of cattle will do just fine on grass and pasture with no supplemental feed. And that means you can get meat and sometimes milk with little purchased feed.

Some types of goats do quite well on mostly forage. That’s not true for all goats, as many dairy goats need feed to do well. But pick the right goats and they can mostly utilize forages rather than grains and other feeds.

Hogs also use all kinds of food, including kitchen and garden scraps, which makes it possible to look for alternatives to at least some of the purchased feeds.

Some combination of all these steps may be necessary to keep the feed costs at your place in line with what your animals are producing for you. In the long run it pays to take steps to provide as much of your own food as you can and to source the rest of it as close to home as you can. Buy as close to the source as possible, too, to support your neighbors and build community.

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