Assess your storage and feed-handling needs prior to introducing a byproduct feed into the ration.

You wouldn’t think about making a car or truck purchase without first asking some questions. In times of high gas prices, one of the questions that ranks top-of-mind is “How many miles per gallon will I get?”

You shouldn’t make a byproduct feed purchase without asking some questions, either. Whether you’re buying a byproduct for the first time or switching suppliers, here’s a list of questions to ask up-front before any transaction occurs:

  • Who is the source of the byproduct? This is particularly relevant if you buy feed through a broker or supplier who works with several different processors. Differences in equipment between processing sites can lead to product variation, says Lynn Davis, a dairy nutritionist with Nutrition Professionals in Neenah, Wis.
  • What is the byproduct’s nutrient content? The nutrient content of a byproduct — not to mention its quality — can vary significantly between suppliers, says Alvaro Garcia, dairy extension specialist at South Dakota State University. (Please see “Validate your freight” on page 50 in the February 2005 issue.) This variation can upset the consistency of the entire ration — particularly when you feed a large amount of a byproduct. Request a wet-chemistry lab analysis of dry matter, crude protein, acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, macro minerals and trace minerals from the supplier. Share this information with your nutritionist so that he or she can balance the ration accordingly.
  • What is the byproduct’s shelf life? High-moisture byproducts often need to be fed within a few days to prevent spoilage.
  • Has a preservative been added at the processing plant? Some byproducts, like wet distillers grains, may receive treatment at the plant to help extend their shelf life, Garcia says.
  • What is the freight cost? The cost to ship a wet product over a long distance can add up fast. Ask for a price quote on a delivered basis, Davis advises.
  • Will the supply continue on an uninterrupted basis? Abrupt changes in the diet can hurt dry matter intake.
  • What is the particle size of the byproduct? Particle size can influence handling and storage on the farm, as well as palatability.
  • If I buy more than my immediate needs, how will I preserve it during longer-term storage to prevent spoilage and mold growth? In general, most plants have strict quality-control guidelines regarding mold or mycotoxin levels, Garcia says. If you preserve a product, such as wet distillers grains, it’s important to minimize air from getting into the product, he adds.
  • Do any of the nutrients in the byproduct exhibit an antagonistic effect on other nutrients? High levels of some minerals can compete with other minerals for absorption by the animal. For example, high sulfur content in corn gluten feed can compete with selenium for absorption, Davis says.
  • Does the byproduct help me achieve a low production cost? Does it cost less to purchase than conventional feeds like soybean meal and corn?

In addition, you also will want to consider what equipment and facilities you will need to handle, process, store and feed out each byproduct you select.