It’s buyer beware when ordering feed

Nov 18, 2011
by DTN

You don’t always get what you bargain for, and that may be a serious issue for cattle producers this year as they struggle to make it through the winter in drought areas.

Cattle feed that’s been extended with fillers, like sawdust and watered down hay, are just a few of the problems cropping up already for cattle producers.

Early reports are surfacing of producers ending up with cattle feed that has been extended with sawdust and other fillers, and then masked with molasses. There have also been reports of 2- and 3-year-old hay sold, and of the watering down of hay to add weight. If there were ever a year for “buyer beware,” this looks like it’s going to be it.

These reports are still described as “anecdotal” by Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University beef marketing specialist. But he adds they are increasing in frequency and they make sense, given that cattle producers started feeding hay early this year and many have been buying from outside sources to make it through the upcoming winter.

“I am concerned that as we go into the winter months, we’re going to be dipping

into lower and lower quality feed resources,” he says. “Some of this hay is old, and we also have hay that’s been baled off of CRP acreage, which is often poor quality forage. So the nutritional value is not always going to be what producers might expect.”

As for fillers showing up in feed, Peel says there’s a line between poor quality and outright fraud. While he stresses there have not been a lot of cases of what he’d call “fraud” yet, he’s concerned that as the winter moves along, there will be more. In some cases, this could mean feed that is actually dangerous, in others, a producer is paying for a certain quality of feed and not getting it.

“Buyers really need to insist on labels on processed feeds that show what is in the feed and what the percentages are,” he says. “If you can’t get that, question the source or test it yourself. In the case of hay, it’s recommended producers get samples and test them so they know what they’re getting in terms of nutrition and that it’s not just tonnage.”

Peel adds that while it’s regrettable there are those who will take advantage of cattlemen “and kick them while they’re down,” there are also a lot of good neigh bors out there.

“We are hearing about folks helping out a lot this year,” he says. “There are good neighbors several states apart helping each other. So while we should be cautious, especially if a deal looks a little too good, we should also remember there are a lot of good people out there.”

Peel says along with concerns about feed quality, he’s reminding producers it’s critical to maintain the nutritional status of their herd.

If body condition scores are allowed to fall over the winter, reproductive performance will take a hit.

“Right now, producers are using a wide range of feed resources and, frankly, some are marginal in nature. Unexpected cold or sustained adverse weather could have a significant impact on cattle here in the southern Plains. For now, I think we’ve reached a settling and I don’t see another wave of cow culling. The exception to that could be in areas where surface water doesn’t replenish soon and there’s nothing for the animals to drink.” —— DTN