Weather patterns in recent years have forced livestock producers to consider alternatives for their winter-feeding programs because of short hay supplies and depleted pastures.

“The use of alternative feeds in crisis situations is nothing new, but, in some cases, the types of alternative feeds currently available are new,” said Gerald Alexander, Hempstead County agent-staff chair with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Because there are so many variables attached to using by-product feeds effectively, a meeting to discuss their use in animal rations is planned for Oct. 11 at the Southwest Research and Extension Center near Hope, Ark. The meeting will begin about 6 p.m. with a meal followed by the program.

“This meeting is for all levels of expertise in feeding by-product feeds,” Alexander said, “particularly those who are considering using by-product feeds for the first time. People who have been using by-product feeds for some time may also discover new information that will help them improve their use of by-product feeds in their feeding programs.”

The main reason livestock producers resort to using alternative feed sources is usually an economic issue, according to Alexander. They want to feed their cattle at the least possible cost while still maintaining production. When the more commonly used feedstuffs rise in price, alternative feed sources become more attractive.

Alternative feeds are also called by-product feeds because they originate from the production and manufacturing of grains and other agricultural products.

“What was once considered a waste product of manufacturing may now find new life as an animal by-product feed,” Alexander said.

By-product feeds provide useful nutrients for livestock. However, a cattle producer shouldn’t indiscriminately use by-product feeds without knowing the consequences of using a particular feed or feeds, Alexander warned.

Considerable variation can and does exist between samples of the same feedstuffs and this variation could spell serious problems for producers in certain situations, he said.

Before purchasing a by-product feed or feeds, a producer should do a little research regarding the pros and cons of the feedstuffs being considered, the agent said. The type of storage facility needed to properly store the feed is a priority concern, as is the type of equipment needed to mix, transport and deliver the feed to waiting livestock.

When developing a ration using by-product feeds, a nutrient analysis of each ingredient is necessary to properly provide the nutrients required for a particular production goal.

“Guessing about the amounts and nutrient content of feedstuffs is a disaster waiting to happen,” Alexander said. Some of the negative side effects include lowered milk production from dairy cows, reduced weight gain and health problems.

If you’re interested in attending the meeting, you should pre-register by calling your county extension office in southwest Arkansas.