The Roundup -

Efficiently Feeding Your Livestock: Calculating Cost On A Unit Nutrient Basis


October 26, 2022 | View PDF

As we head into the winter-feeding months, feed costs make up 65% or more of total input costs. It is important to compare feed costs on a “unit nutrient basis” which really means just getting the most bang for your buck. This approach will come in useful for all feed costs, but especially when you are comparing and pricing out different supplements.

There are three pieces of information about the feed in question that you will need in order to do this calculation: 1) total price per ton, 2) percentage dry matter of the supplement (% DM), and 3) percentage nutrient you are wanting to supplement (crude protein (CP), energy (TDN), minerals, etc.).

As an example, say you are wanting to supplement more crude protein (CP) to your cows and you are comparing two supplements; Supplement A and Supplement B. Supplement A costs $200/ton, is 91% DM, and 15% CP. Supplement B costs $300/ton, is 90% DM, and 30% CP. Supplement A is the least expensive and you should buy that, correct? Not necessarily. Why is that? While Supplement B costs more total per ton, it costs less per pound of CP, meaning you can feed less of Supplement B to get the amount of CP your cows need compared to if you fed Supplement A.

Supplement A: 1 ton = 2000 lb; 2000 lb × 91% DM (91/100) = 1820 lb DM/ton; 1820 lb DM × 15% CP (15/100) = 273 lb CP/ton; $200/273 lb CP = $0.73/lb CP; $0.73/lb CP

Supplement B: 1 ton = 2000 lb; 2000 lb × 90% DM, (90/100) = 1800 lb DM/ton; 1800 lb DM × 30% CP (30/100) = 540 lb CP/ton; $300/540 lb CP = $0.55/lb; $0.55 lb CP

This same calculation would apply if you were wanting to supplement energy, minerals, or other nutrients. If you have any questions about calculating cost on a nutrient basis, please contact the MSU Richland County Extension Office at 406-433-1206 or [email protected]


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